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UK: Data Breach Puts RAF Officers at Risk of Blackmail

By Matthew Harwood

Poor data security handling by the British government once again could put 500 officers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) at risk of blackmail, according to Wired.com's Threat Level blog.

It seems three unencrypted hard drives were stolen last September from the RAF Innsworth in Gloucestershire. Initially, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the hard drives contained only banking information and home addresses of 50,000 Air Force personnel.

But that was a lie, as a BBC program discovered when an internal document was leaked to it. Within the hard drives were 500 in-depth interviews with RAF officers who revealed extremely sensitive information during the vetting process to clear them to handle highly sensitive information.

An internal MoD memo - obtained by a former officer and passed to BBC Two's Who's Watching You? programme - shows the lost files contained "details of criminal convictions, investigations, precise details of debt, medical conditions, drug abuse, use of prostitutes, extra-marital affairs including the names of third parties."

The e-mail - from an unnamed wing commander - says the data "provides excellent material for Foreign Intelligence Services and blackmailers."

In the memo, written three weeks after the disks were stolen, he added: "By not declaring that highly sensitive vetting information has been lost, I am concerned that we, the RAF, will be accused of attempting a cover up."

In a statement, MoD said there is no reason to believe any "criminal or hostile elements" has targeted the compromised data.

In the memo, the MoD admitted that the information would be "front page news" and that details of RAF officers' private lives could wreck the reputation of the RAF, reports the Telegraph.

♦ Photo by jamesdale10/Flickr

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