Discs containing information from three sensitive police inquiries – two of which involved highly controversial shootings in London, including that of Mark Duggan – have gone missing after being sent through the post. Yeah, you read that right: sent through the post.
The information covers probes into the role of the police in the deaths of three men – Duggan, Azelle Rodney and Robert Hamill.
Officials at the UK's Ministry of Justice realised the optical storage discs had gone missing three weeks ago. A member of staff has since been suspended.
Duggan was shot by police in 2011 while Rodney died in similar circumstances back in 2005. The third case related to the 1997 murder of Hamill by loyalists in Northern Ireland, which his family and campaigners claim involved police collusion.
Each case involved testimony from witnesses, including police officers, who were offered anonymity. It's unclear whether or not copies of the missing documents included the personal information of witnesses.
A Ministry of Justice declined to take questions from El Reg because of an independent inquiry into the incident, referring us to a government statement instead.
The government takes information security extremely seriously, and this incident is a breach of the arrangements that should be in place.
At this stage there is no evidence to indicate that the information loss arose from malicious intent.
Nevertheless, it is essential to take the most precautionary view and to take all necessary steps to safeguard the interests of anyone whose information could be disclosed.
Police and other agencies have undertaken their own risk assessment, and have identified and taken any steps necessary to ensure the protection of officers.
We'd wanted to ask whether or not the data had been encrypted, as well as why post was used to move sensitive information, which anyone in the tech industry might commonly be sent by secure file transfer technologies that have been available for many years.
"Intensive searches" assisted by police have failed to find either of the two missing discs. Families of the deceased have been informed.