The British Government has an appalling record with regard to mishandling it’s citizens private data. Yet it is hell-bent on forging ahead with the compulsory introduction of electronic identity cards. But how bad is the problem? Well, our Government is losing and our confidential data all the time. The following is not a script for “Spooks” or some made-up conspiracy theory. This is fact. Moreover, these are just the cases the Government admits to. And only covers the last 12 months…
2008 November, Government UK Gateway passwords lost on memory stick in a pub car park
A memory stick – holding passwords for a government computer system – was found in the car park of a pub in Staffordshire. The Gateway website gives access to services including tax returns and child benefits. The memory stick was lost by an employee of a subcontractor called Atos Origin.
2008 October, Ministry of Defence “loses” details of 100,000 service personnel
A computer hard drive containing the personal details of about 100,000 of the Armed Forces was reported missing during an audit carried out by IT contractor EDS. It is thought to contain more than 1.5 million pieces of information, possibly unencrypted, including the details of 600,000 potential recruits, a small amount of information about bank details, passport numbers, addresses, dates of birth, driving licence details and telephone numbers. The Ministry of Defence police are investigating the disappearance but we don’t know whether it was lost or stolen.
2008 September. 5,000 justice staff personal details lost on portable hard drive
The government confirmed that a portable hard drive holding details of up to 5,000 employees of the justice system was lost in July 2007. The details of employees of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales, including prison staff, were lost by a private firm, EDS. Officials only realised the data was missing in July of this year. Justice Secretary Jack Straw launched an inquiry.
2008 August. Data about 84,000 criminals lost on a memory stick
Home Office contractor PA Consulting admitted losing a computer memory stick containing information on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales. It also held personal details of about 10,000 prolific offenders. The Home Office suspended the transfer of all further data to the private firm pending the outcome of an investigation.
2008 July. Ministry of defence declares 121 memory sticks and 747 laptops lost or stolen
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that 121 computer memory sticks and more than twice as many laptops than previously thought have been lost or stolen in the past four years. Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth gave a written statement to parliament saying 121 USB memory devices had gone astray – five of which contained secret data. And in a parliamentary written answer, Defence Secretary Des Browne said 747 laptops had been stolen – 400 more than originally reported. Of those, only 32 have been recovered so far.
2008 June. Secret terrorist documents left on train
A senior intelligence officer from the Cabinet Office was suspended after documents were left on the seat of commuter train from London Waterloo. A passenger later handed them to the BBC. The seven-page file, classified as “UK Top Secret”, contained a report entitled “Al-Qaeda Vulnerabilities” and an assessment of the state of Iraq’s security forces. Cabinet Minister Ed Miliband said there had been a “clear breach” of security rules, which forbid the removal of such documents from government premises. But Mr Miliband claimed national security was “not at risk”. Two inquiries – one by the Cabinet Office, the other by the Metropolitan Police – have been launched.
2008 April. Army Captain’s laptop left at McDonalds
An army captain’s laptop was taken from under his chair as he filled his face in a McDonald’s, near the Ministry of Defence’s Whitehall headquarters. The MoD said the data on the laptop was not sensitive, and was fully encrypted. This is the latest MoD laptop theft to be made public and it came after the government tightened the rules on employees taking computers out of work. Whitehall staff are now banned from taking unencrypted laptops or drives containing personal data outside secured office premises.
2008 January. Laptop containing details of military recruits stolen from car
A laptop computer belonging to a Royal Navy officer was stolen from car in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It contained the personal details of 600,000 people who had expressed an interest in, or applied to join, the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the RAF. It contained data including passport numbers, National Insurance numbers and bank details. Defence Secretary Des Browne later admitted the inquiry into the loss of the Royal Navy officer’s laptop uncovered two similar thefts since 2005. At the time, Dr Liam Fox, shadow defence secretary, said 68 MoD laptops had been stolen in 2007, 66 in 2006, 40 in 2005 and 173 in 2004.
2007 December. Three million UK driving test candidates details lost in the USA
The details of three million candidates for the UK driving theory test went missing in the USA. Names, addresses and phone numbers – but no financial information – were among the details stored on a computer hard drive, which belonged to a contractor working for the Driving Standards Agency. The information was sent electronically to contractor Pearson Driving Assessments in Iowa and the hard drive was then sent to another state before being brought back to Iowa, where it went missing. Ministers said the information had been formatted specifically to meet the security requirements of Pearson Driving Assessments and was not “readily usable or accessible” by third parties.
2007 November. Two hard disks containing 25 million Child Benefit records lost
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) lost two computer discs containing the entire child benefit records, including the personal details of 25 million people – covering 7.25 million families overall. The two discs contained the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details of people who received child benefit. They also included National Insurance numbers. They were sent via internal mail from HMRC in Washington, north-east England, to the National Audit Office in London on 2007-10-18 by a junior official. But it never arrived.
Now, I don’t know about you folks but I would not trust these people with my personal data. In fact I wouldn’t trust them to sit the right way on a toilet!