A careless M15 spy has lost top Government secrets after his laptop was pinched while he was buying a train ticket. The thief snatched the £2000 computer from between the agent's feet as he was rummaging in his pockets for change at Paddington station. The agent and two London bobbies gave chase through the crowded station, but the crook sprinted away and disappeared into Paddington's labyrinth of corridors. It is believed that the laptop, stolen on 4 March, is crammed with data crucial to the Northern Ireland peace process and other sensitive issues. A squad of 150 Special Branch and police are reported to be working round the clock to find the laptop, which belonged to a middle-ranking M15 officer. Last night a Government source said: "There is nothing in the laptop which threatens national security. "The information does relate to Northern Ireland. But it does not contain anything about possible IRA or breakaway terrorists' plans to resume bombing campaigns on the mainland if the peace process breaks down," today's Sun newspaper reported. A humiliated M15 insisted the material stored on the laptop was so well encrypted that it would be useless to whoever was in possession of it. But Mike Graves, European marketing manager for Internet security at Hewlett-Packard, told The Register that the information may not be as safe as the Government claims. "All encryption keys have a sell-by date. As long as the information is only sensitive for a short period of time, this is OK. But not for longer-term sensitive information," said Graves. "The time it takes to decrypt expires as computer power grows." The thief was believed to be an opportunist, not someone who targeted the bungling M15 agent, but the incident is yet another humiliation for Britain's undercover units. It comes at a time when M15 is struggling to stop former officer David Shayler from revealing sensitive information. And last year, M16 was unable to stop its former spy Richard Tomlinson splashing British agents' details over the Web.
- In related news, LG Electronics also fell victim to thieves following CeBIT 2000. The company had its shiny new plasma display panel TV nicked in transit from Germany to another exhibition in India. LG must be kicking itself – it hadn’t applied for a patent of the core technologies on the device, Techrevolt reports.
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