“A total of 759 laptops and computers were lost and an additional 32 were stolen between the May 2015 election and October 2016, records released by the Press Association show,” according to this report. Calling information security a ‘top priority’ the ministry also simply can’t imagine where they left ‘328 CDs, DVDs and USBs’, either.
This is not exactly the first time security agencies in the United Kingdom have been remiss with their gadgets. A laptop with details of bank accounts of defense ministry staffers was stolen in 2015. MI6 caught a computer programmer in 2010 after he smuggled out secret data to sell to foreign intelligence agencies – the geek later claimed he was ‘directed by voices’. The data included details of MI5 and MI6 officers as well as data for an email intercept program.
But before that in 2009 – oh this is a good one! – an agent of the British Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), left her bag in an airport coach in Bogota, Columbia. The bag contained, among other things, a USB drive with ‘details of operations, code-names and informers’ – ‘five years of intelligence on the cocaine trade’. She was described in the report by a former colleague, thusly: “She’s a lovely girl but a bit daft and scatterbrained — the sort of person you could imagine forgetting her handbag on a bus.” ‘A source put the cost of aborted missions at £100m,’ the report added.
Then there was that time in 2008 when someone bought a Nikon Coolpix on eBay for $31 and took pictures with it. And then downloaded the pictures. And found pictures of al Qaeda suspects, their academic records, documentation for an encrypted computer system and lots of other stuff that could be considered ‘need to know’. Here’s the dope on this one.
But this report of the incident says at the end:
The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassing data losses to affect the intelligence services and the government.
On Monday, prosecutors said a senior public official who left top secret intelligence assessments of al-Qaida and the security forces in Iraq on a London commuter train is due to face charges under the Official Secrets Act.
Last year, a civil servant lost computer disks containing the names, addresses and bank details of 25 million people, while in January, the Ministry of Defense said it had lost a laptop containing personal data on 600,000 recruits.
The Home Office said in August that a contractor had lost personal details of every prisoner in England and Wales.
And in 2000, someone in MI6 lost their laptop while having a few drinks at a tapas bar. They managed to find that one in time.