The Ministry of Defence and contractor EDS are frantically checking the bins this morning for a missing hard drive containing records of 100,000 servicemen and women and their families.
The case is worrying, even by this government's cretinous standards, because of potential targetting of people who worked in Northern Ireland or in more recent conflicts. The records also appear to contain enough information to create a fake identity.
The information included bank details and passport numbers of 100,000 servicemen and women. There was also information on 800,000 people who had applied to serve in the armed forces.
Why such a huge amount of data was stored on an unecrypted and portable drive has not been revealed.
The MoD sent us the following statement:“On Wednesday 8 October we were informed by our contractor EDS that they were unable to account for a portable hard drive used in connection with the administration of Armed Forces personnel data. This came to light during a priority audit EDS are conducting to comply with the Cabinet Office data handling review. The MOD Police are investigating with EDS.”
Much of the data of course will have already been lost by the MoD. Here's a quick reminder of how much information the department has lost this year, due to its failure to follow even the most basic data protection principles.
In January the MoD admitted losing a laptop with details of 600,000 applicants for the armed services. The data was unencrypted and the laptop, which was not password protected, was left in an empty car overnight.
In March it admitted losing 11,000 ID cards over the last two years.
In July it coughed to losing 87 storage devices containing classified material since 2003.
In September it was the turn of the RAF. It lost three hard disk drives containing information on all current and recently-ex members of the RAF - about 50,000 people.
Also in September it was an MoD staffer, on secondment to the Cabinet Office, who left two top secret intelligence documents on a train from Waterloo. We learnt yesterday that he is to be charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act. ®