Living in the United Kingdom has one major downside which became apparent recently. The government likes to collect all sorts of data about citizens and visitors but seems incapable of securing that data.
Laptops, USB sticks and other data sources get lost in astonishing regularity and leak private data and even top secret information to anyone who finds the devices.
The last incident came to light this Sunday. The Times Online reported that an USB Stick was found outside a Brewers Fayre chain pub in Cannock, Staffordshire which contained confidential passwords, security software and the source code of the Government Gateway.
The data on the stick could be used to access the personal details of more than 12 million individuals who registered on the system including names, addresses, national insurance numbers, credit card information or passwords.
The system had been shut down shortly after the USB stick was found (again) to protect the data of all citizens in the database. According to government officials the system had not been breached by then.
Even more pressing than the discovery of the data on the stick is that it also contained the source code which could be used to exploit the system to a much larger extent. While it would take know how to do so, attackers could analyze the source code for vulnerabilities and exploit them then to gain access or manipulate data.
Investigations are in full swing and should reveal additional information soon. Gordon Brown commented on the incident with the words: “It is important to recognize we cannot promise that every single item of information will always be safe because mistakes are made by human beings."
While that may be the case, it raises questions about data privacy policies and rules. Why was someone able to take the stick home or at least to the pub?
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.