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Identity Discs blunder could cost tens of billions

Should it be confirmed that the discs have effectively been stolen rather than lost, it would highlight the fact that it is much less of a gamble for criminals to steal such bounty rather than risk their lives in a real bank heist.

The discs are password protected but this doesn't mean much and by the time of the announcement yesterday, the passwords would have already been cracked if criminal groups got hold of the discs.

At market prices (The Washington Post (opens in new tab) mentions USD 14 each), the two discs would be worth tens of millions of pounds.

Barring perhaps the TK Maxx Credit card Fraud (opens in new tab) where credit card details of nearly 46 million people were stolen by hackers, this is possibly the biggest ID-related blunder ever.

This raises even more questions over the way the current government plans to manage the ID Card project as well as the centralisation of identity databases which are honey pots for criminals and hackers.

Unlike credit cards though, people at risk cannot change the data contained on the disc and those could be use for potentially more damaging fraud like remortgaging a house.

For example, your name or surname, address, bank details or NI number which often are untouched during a person's working life.

It is not the first time that CD containing personal details (opens in new tab) are being lost in the post; as recently as in October, data on 15,000 pension policy holders were lost ... by TNT; perhaps it was a test run at that time.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.