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Print 28 comment(s) - last by littlebitstrou.. on Dec 19 at 10:27 AM

Whoops! They did it again -- Britain's government looses millions of more people's personal records.

The UK government is making a run at the record books, but not a very positive one.  Britain's government, plagued by bureaucratic fumblings, is setting new records in how many citizens' personal data one country can manage to lose.  Last month there was news of a record setting loss of 25 million citizen's records, which were sent in the mail by CD and mysteriously vanished.  "Catch Me If You Can" criminal legend Frank Abagnale publicly suggested that someone had purposefully plotted to steal the data, which included bank records, and succeeded -- due to Britain's lax security.

Now the UK officials are twiddling their thumbs and awkwardly trying to put a positive spin on the latest shocking development; they have managed to lose another 3 million citizens' data.

Britain's bureaucratic system electronically stores records for learner drivers, including information on their vehicle, name, address, and other personal information.  Much of this information was privately contracted for storage to a facility in Iowa, in the United States.  This facility revealed to government officials in May that it had lost a single hard disk, which contained over 3 million records.  The UK's Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, in turn, sat on this information and did not reveal it to Britain's Parliament until this week.

She issued a short public apology, referencing fears of possible identity theft that the victims of this latest bumble may endure, saying, "I apologize for any uncertainty or concern that these individuals may experience."

Fortunately no banking or credit card info is included in the records, however, a malicious party could use the information to apply for credit cards and commit identity theft on a massive scale.

The loss is seen in Britain as another major embarrassment to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the Labor Party (LP), who are struggling with public antipathy.  The Conservative party is seizing the issue as a further means to attack the struggling LP and build a lead into coming elections.

Security remains an increasingly hot topic, as everyone from nuclear plant officials to everyday citizens continue to show a lack of savvy for protecting themselves online.  Between lax data and network management procedures at government and business facilities, to users giving up personal information for an abstract sense of "trust", the greatest threat to public and government security is not some malicious hacker, but the users and officials themselves. 

Britain is seeing the catastrophic consequences of this ignorance, but it is unlikely to be alone as users struggle to separate real threats from fiction and safeguard themselves in the 21st century digital world.



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I wonder
By clovell on 12/18/2007 11:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder who the private contracting firm was. See, about 3 months ago, I got an e-mail from my old university telling me that my Financial Aid records from college had been lost.

Apparently, a truck full of these records had its shipment suddenly vanish. The truck was carrying tens, if not hundreds of thousands of students' Financial Aid records. The company contracted by the great state of Louisiana was Iron Mountain. The state spun it like this: The average Joe on the street couldn't pick it up and access the information, he would have to have special computer equipment and skills and know what computer language it's in." But, the fact was that the information was NOT encrypted - probably just stored as an XML file.

That didn't surprise me as these same guys had botched some important logistics of file cleanup after Hurricane Katrina flooded a lot of the hospitals in New Orleans - where I ended up working for a while. It took over a year to get many of our files back.

You can read about it here:

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/10/studen...

I just wonder if it was maybe the same company. If nothing else, this problem isn't unique to the UK.




RE: I wonder
By JustTom on 12/18/2007 1:10:20 PM , Rating: 1
I do wonder why such sensitive data is not encrypted. I work at an university and the data I have access to from home is truly chilling.


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