Commerce Department Malware Panic: US Trashed $170K In Equipment For No Good Reason

Commerce Department malware

A Commerce Department malware panic caused by inaccurate information sparked a 2012 rampage that resulted in the destruction of more than $170,000 worth of IT hardware including desktops, printers, TVs, cameras, computer mice, and keyboards. The Economic Development Administration actually had plans to destroy over $3 million more — but they’d run out of funds for disposing of the items by August 1, 2012, putting a stop to the wasteful project.

The Commerce Department recently released an audit of the panic which concluded that the items were never infected with any persistent malware to begin with. You can read the whole thing here but here’s the report’s somewhat angry conclusion about the episode:

“Since EDA did not validate the information it used to make its key decisions, it unnecessarily expended a large portion of its IT budget and many months investigating its incident and planning for the recovery of its IT systems.

“Despite finding only common malware infections, EDA’s management and CIO remained convinced that there could be extremely persistent malware somewhere in EDA’s IT system.”

In other words, on the basic of blind hysteria, the US Commerce Department destroyed over $170,000 in hardware components that were perfectly fine.

If it makes you feel any better, the prices were calculated based on what the US paid for the equipment in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t worth quite so much since they didn’t account for depreciation.

But if you want to feel worse, they also reported that the Commerce Department malware battle cost over $2.7 million in expenses to destroy the items, buy or lease temporary items, and hire contractors to help out with recovering from the malware that didn’t exist in the first place.


Folks at The Verge are having a field day with the incident, and not everyone believes that it was just a stupid blunder.

Poster Awesomerobot said: “Sounds like that equipment may have been destroyed right into someone’s house.”

I would have said eBay but same song, second verse, right?

Another poster abw1987 didn’t want to accuse anyone of downright criminal behavior: “Or they just wanted new equipment and couldn’t quite make a good enough business case to justify the purchase…until all the old stuff was destroyed.”

Yeah. Everyone who has ever worked in an office knows where that’s coming from.

But whether it was an over-the-top panic reaction or a deniable mistake aimed at getting the old equipment out of the building, the US Commerce Department malware blunder doesn’t seem like a wise use of public funds.