The Daily Mail
21st January 2008
Three military laptops with personal details of up to 600,000 people
have been lost, Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted today.
The Cabinet minister, who is understood to be furious at the data
security breaches, told MPs this afternoon that the extent of the
blunders was wider than previously revealed.
They are likely to lead to disciplinary action.
With the Ministry of Defence already under fire over the loss of one
computer on 9 January, Mr Browne ordered an independent inquiry into
military data security.
The laptop stolen in Birmingham this month - from the car of a Royal
Navy officer who was involved in recruitment - contained details of
600,000 people including passport numbers, insurance numbers, family
background information and medical details.
The MoD is writing to about 3,500 people whose bank details were
included on the database.
But Mr Browne today admitted that a Royal Navy laptop with almost
identical information was stolen in October 2006 from a car in
Manchester. It contained details of people who had expressed an interest
in, or joined, the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the RAF.
A third Army computer was stolen from a careers office in Edinburgh in
December 2005 with details of 500 people.
The loss of unencrypted personal details has sparked fears that
servicemen and women could be targeted by Islamist terrorists after
police last year broke up an alleged plot to kidnap and kill a British
Mr Browne told MPs that security regulations to protect the sensitive
information had not been followed including encryption.
He also expressed concern that the details of so many people, some
dating back to 1997, were being carried around by recruitment officers.
The Defence Secretary stressed that ministers had not been told of the
earlier security breaches and that military staff involved in the cases
thought the information had been protected by encryption.
No evidence has yet emerged to suggest that criminals have made use of,
or sold, the information on the laptops.
Mr Browne admitted that weaknesses had been identified in the military
systems for safeguarding data held by training officers.
He also said that the problems and past cases had not been highlighted
to a recent Cabinet Office-led review of data protection and made clear
that military chiefs are likely to discipline those responsible for the
The latest revelations will fuel doubts that the Government can be
trusted to keep details safely about citizens. They follow the scandals
of the Revenue and Customs' lost child benefit disc, containing personal
information of 25 million individuals, and the loss of a disc drive
containing personal information on three million driving test
The independent inquiry will be carried out by Sir Edmund Burton,
chairman of the Information Advisory Council and former chairman of the
Police Information Technology Organisation.
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