Secret Defense Data Lost on UK Government USBs

Yet more government storage shenanigans on the other side of the pond



5:20 PM

By James Rogers, Byte and Switch

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that 121 USB sticks, including five containing secret information, have been lost or stolen since 2004, in the British government’s latest embarrassing data breach .

The figures were released in response to an official question from Sarah Teather, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, and are the latest in a string of British government data gaffes. The MoD’s missing USBs follow the loss of two disks containing welfare information on 25 million U.K. citizens, not to mention the loss of a bewildering array of laptops and mobile phones.

“Far from the problem getting better, it seems actually to be getting worse at the moment,” said Teather. “I think that the government has a duty to come clean and say whether or not anyone has been put at risk as a result of this – we need reassuring, for example, that none of our troops have been put at risk.”

The British government’s latest storage snafu comes less than a year after Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is the U.K’s equivalent of the IRS was at the center of the country’s largest ever data loss.

The U.K.’s latest data loss heaps yet more pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a time when his government is pushing on with a controversial plan to implement national identity cards.

”The government are going ahead - to build this giant database for ID cards, and to put all this information into one format,” said Teather. “How can they expect us to trust them to keep our personal information safe in their unnecessary and expensive ID card scheme?”

The U.K., or course, is not the only country whose military secrets have been put at risk in a high-profile storage snafu.

Earlier this month, for example, Japan was left reeling from after the theft of a USB drive containing sensitive information on joint military exercises with the U.S. The country’s armed forces also hit the headlines in 2007 after sensitive information concerning the U.S.-built Aegis missile system was discovered on a serviceman’s home PC, resulting in an apology to U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates.

Sweden’s armed forces was also embarrassed earlier this year when a USB drive containing military secrets surfaced in a public library in Stockholm.

Last year, a survey revealed that almost three quarters of organizations house critical data on removable media despite numerous warnings about the security threats posed by the technology.

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