F1 drivers at risk of blackmail says Sophos

Sophos is warning laptop users of the need to encrypt their data or risk all sorts of problems. The warning comes as a man has been arrested and accused of attempting to blackmail Formula One racing drivers Adrian Sutil and Lewis Hamilton.

According to Sophos, German police have arrested a man who allegedly tried to sell a hard disk which had belonged to Sutil, and contained personal information, details of Swiss bank account transactions, photographs, and private correspondence between the 25-year-old German and Lewis Hamilton.

The man, who has only been named as "Dieter", was arrested by undercover detectives at a motorway service station as he tried to sell the disk to Bild Motorsport magazine for 10,000 Euros.

And it being a Sophos yarn, here's Graham Cluley (fx: curtsies in the presence of ITsec royalty -Ed) to comment on the story:

"This is a timely reminder to businesses and individuals alike to securely wipe your PCs' hard drive before disposing of an old computer," said the Sophos senior technology consultant.

"Whether you are taking the PC down to the rubbish tip, selling it onto a friend, or giving it to charity, it is critical that the data on it is properly overwritten and permanently erased," he said.

According to Cluley, this is computer security 101, as identity thieves have been known to hang around junkyards picking up old computers just minutes after they have been dropped off, and then using data recovery tools to see if financial records, passwords and other information useful for stealing identities can be unearthed.

"And if you're a business or mega-rich celebrity such as a Formula One driver, the losses can be even more acute," he noted.

Cluley reckons that, if Adrian Sutil's father Jorge had properly erased the contents of the computer when he disposed of it a year ago, the racing drivers would not have been at risk of blackmail.

Yeah, well, my observations suggest that rich racing driver's dads don't have to worry about doing things for themselves. They generally have people to do it for them...