New scandal as UK Govt CD found on auction laptop

29 Feb 2008

Just months following the resignation of the head of the UK’s Inland Revenue in response to the revelation that two CDs containing information on 25 million child welfare recipients had gone missing, a new data scandal has arisen with the discovery of a confidential Home Office CD hidden in a computer sold on eBay.

The CD was found between the keyboard and circuit board of the laptop that was brought into a computer repair shop near Bolton when the buyer had problems with the device.

Upon discovering the disk, which was encrypted and marked ‘Home Office, highly confidential’, the technicians rang the police.

According to the Home Office, the data on the disk was encrypted and couldn’t be accessed. How the disk and the laptop found their way for auction on eBay is being investigated.

The incident is the latest in an embarrassing catalogue of data thefts and losses in the UK, which most recently included the theft of a laptop from the back of a car belonging to a Ministry of Defence employee, which contained information on thousands of servicemen.

In recent weeks, Ireland was also rocked by news that a laptop containing records of 175,000 blood donors belonging to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service was stolen in New York.

In a statement, the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland said he was satisfied no data protection rules had been breached on this occasion and that the encryption protecting the records was strong enough to prevent them being accessed.

By John Kennedy