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Confidential details about the U.S.'s THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) ground to air missile defence system, used to shoot down Scud missiles in Iraq, were found on a hard drive by British researchers. The researchers also found a wealth of other personal information and medical records from Lockheed Martin and several other major corporations or government entitities.  (Source: The Daily Mail)
A hard drive has been carelessly released, but is fortunately in safe hands

Hot off the heels of the  of selling the B-2 stealth bomber's radar spectrum to a Russian national and intrusions by Chinese hackers, the U.S. Armed Forces have another leak on their hands.  Researchers analyzing 300 hard drives bought at computer fairs and on the internet auction site eBay discovered a surprise -- a hard drive containing U.S. missile defense secrets that was not properly wiped by contractor Lockheed Martin.

The research project was conducted by BT's Security Research Centre in England in collaboration with the University of Glamorgan in Wales, Edith Cowan University in Australia, and Longwood University in the US.  According to British news site The Daily Mail, the researchers made the startling discovery that the hard drive in question contained highly sensitive information on test launch procedures of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) ground to air missile defense system, used to shoot down Scud missiles in Iraq.

Also on the drive were Lockheed Martin's internal security policies, blueprints of facilities, and personal information on employees including social security numbers. 

On other hard drives, the researchers discovered a wealth of additional information from other companies on employees, including bank account details, medical records, confidential business plans, financial company data, personal id numbers, and job descriptions.  The drives were purchased in or shipped to the UK, America, Germany, France and Australia.  Over 34 percent of the drives, according to researchers, contained "information of either personal data that could be identified to an individual or commercial data identifying a company or organisation."

Two disks from England's Lanarkshire NHS Trust hold patient medical records, images of x-rays, medical staff shifts and sensitive and confidential staff letters from Monklands and Hairmyres hospitals.  A disk from an Australian nursing home contained pictures of patients and their wound.  A disk sold in France contained network data and security logs from the German Embassy in Paris.  Other disks contained secret business information from an auto company and a UK-based fashion company.

Dr Andy Jones, head of information security research at BT, states, "This is the fourth time we have carried out this research and it is clear that a majority of organisations and private individuals still have no idea about the potential volume and type of information that is stored on computer hard disks.  For a very large proportion of the disks we looked at we found enough information to expose both individuals and companies to a range of potential crimes such as fraud, blackmail and identity theft.  Businesses also need to be aware that they could also be acting illegally by not disposing of this kind of data properly."

Dr Iain Sutherland of the University of Glamorgan adds, "Of significant concern is the number of large organisations that are still not disposing of confidential information in a secure manner. In the current financial climate they risk losing highly valuable propriety data."

A Lockheed Martin spokesperson commented on the alleged data leak, "Lockheed Martin is not aware of any compromise of data related to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense program.  Until Lockheed Martin can evaluate the hard drive in question, it is not possible to comment further on its potential contents or source."

A spokesperson for NHS Lanarkshire blames a corporate partner, commenting, "This study refers to hard disks which were disposed of in 2006. At that time NHS Lanarkshire had a contractual agreement with an external company for the disposal of computer equipment.  In this instance the hard drives had been subjected to a basic level of data removal by the company and had then been disposed of inappropriately. This was clearly in breach of contract and was wholly unacceptable."

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Why don't we...
By MrBungle123 on 5/8/2009 11:54:48 AM , Rating: 5
Just require that any hard drive from a system that has been used for work on sensitive information of a national security nature be physically destroyed when the comptuer is removed from service, or the drive is replaced with a larger/faster/newer one. This should effect systems used directly by the government and defense contractors alike. There ya go, done, it never happens again.

RE: Why don't we...
By ClownPuncher on 5/8/2009 12:28:53 PM , Rating: 5
Sounds too easy, why don't we just hire a committee of uninformed beaurocrats to make descisions like these instead?

RE: Why don't we...
By ClownPuncher on 5/8/2009 12:36:08 PM , Rating: 2
I can spell, I swear. Bureaucrat, wow time for some coffee.

RE: Why don't we...
By jhb116 on 5/8/2009 10:41:22 PM , Rating: 4
We did - Congress

RE: Why don't we...
By BansheeX on 5/9/2009 2:32:20 PM , Rating: 5
It's okay, our language's phonetic orthography sucks.

RE: Why don't we...
By MrBungle123 on 5/8/2009 2:10:50 PM , Rating: 5
I can see it now...

Technical Advisor: "the guys in IT say that before we dispose of these old systems they should be scrubbed"

Congressman: "Ok, great! Lets create a new department to clean off all the dust and grime from all the old computers before we sell them at auction."

Committee Treasurer: "Do we have funding for this new program?"

Congressman: "We'll allocate $5.6 Billion in the new bio-degradable road paint bill."

<cheering and clapping>

RE: Why don't we...
By BadAcid on 5/8/2009 12:55:13 PM , Rating: 5
This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds

RE: Why don't we...
By Bateluer on 5/8/2009 1:07:16 PM , Rating: 2
When I worked in the CSS while active duty, this was standard policy. When a PC was replaced, the hard drive was yanked and destroyed, which was also fun to do. We had a magnetic roller, then the drive got the hammer treatment.

RE: Why don't we...
By afkrotch on 5/8/2009 2:39:38 PM , Rating: 5
If the drives still work, we reuse the drives. If they're too small or broken, they get destroyed.

Breaking drives is fun, until you have around 50 or more of them to break.

RE: Why don't we...
By Souka on 5/8/2009 3:34:02 PM , Rating: 5
how about thousands?

Years ago I worked at Boeing in the IT dept. After a large upgrade on PC systems throughout the NW region it was decided to be too costly to re-use or re-sell the drives.

Re-use runs risk of drive failure from a 2+ yr old drive.
re-sell means having to wipe drives, and also verify they're wiped.

Result? All drives were sent to the IT security dept in the next building...truck loads. They had what was essentially a wood-chipper, but designed to chew metal.

They used shovels to toss them into the chipper.....loud to say the least....

RE: Why don't we...
By crystal clear on 5/9/2009 1:46:11 AM , Rating: 1
how about thousands?

No problem-you have managers that need to fired, simple as that.

Solution-bring in <road roller & roll them flat !>

Is it so difficult-is so expensive-do you need a contracter for that ?

RE: Why don't we...
By Whedonic on 5/8/2009 10:52:07 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Why don't we...
By Captain828 on 5/9/2009 4:37:41 AM , Rating: 1
Neah, plans for a "top secret laser system" might be blown so high in the sky that it would land in enemy hands

I say we nuke 'em! That way the drives will be totally trashed.
A special area would be needed for such an operation, but the Pentagon should suffice.

RE: Why don't we...
By DrMrLordX on 5/9/2009 9:23:20 PM , Rating: 2
I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

RE: Why don't we...
By djcameron on 5/8/2009 2:51:37 PM , Rating: 2
The stupidity of all this is that we used to stand around a fire barrel burning the removed/replaced pages of Army helicopter technical manuals that were only "For Official Use Only", yet they resell hard drives that contained far more sensitive material?

RE: Why don't we...
By crystal clear on 5/9/2009 1:52:08 AM , Rating: 1
Fire that manager who gave the order to sell and you can be sure it will never happen again.

As a owner of my own business, I have learnt from experience that "managers realize their mistakes only when they get fired & then ofcourse regret it.

RE: Why don't we...
By MozeeToby on 5/8/2009 3:21:35 PM , Rating: 2
That is the policy for anything Secret or Top Secret where I work, I'm not sure about confidential though. In any event, you have to submit a report to your security office saying how you're going to dispose of anything that has touched classified data. That report has to be cleared by the powers that be (NSA I think, not sure though) before you can hook up anything.

In other words, someone didn't follow the established procedure. In other words, the biggest security risk is the people you give access to. The company, or at least the department, shouldn't be allowed to bid on projects for 6 months or a year; but, because it's Lockheed and they have all kinds of political clout, that will never happen.

RE: Why don't we...
By kittleson on 5/8/2009 6:10:05 PM , Rating: 2
I don't even work in a security-sensitive industry, and physical destruction of disks is our standard policy. The leak discussed in this article is totally inexcusable.

RE: Why don't we...
By Oregonian2 on 5/11/2009 8:05:58 PM , Rating: 2
And probably a big reason that the new drives with built-in encryption are coming out (to cut down on disclosure upon improper disposal).

RE: Why don't we...
By ipay on 5/9/2009 12:19:56 AM , Rating: 2
Why don't we just require that any hard drive from a system that has been used for work on sensitive information of a national security nature be physically destroyed when the computer is removed from service?

They are doing it.. At least the military is doing it with their sensitive systems. They dig a hole in the field, and burn them with special flares at extreme temperatures to the point that hard drives melt. It's the dumb contractors that always treat everything as business as usual. That's what you get for outsourcing important work to incompetents..

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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