Skip to main content

So how many HMRC discs were lost?

More information have cropped up that gives us a more complete picture of what looks to be a cross between "1984" and "Catch me if you can".

Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom's department is one of the biggest in the country; however, it seems that data is probably better protected on your computer than on theirs.

The Daily Mail reported yesterday (opens in new tab) that two more computer discs containing personal data went missing at the "bungling ministry of mayhem".

ITweek adds that the records might (opens in new tab) have been stored in nothing more than a CSV (Comma Separated Variable) format which is a nicely formatted text document.

It also became clear that the main reason why the complete dataset (rather than the NI records requested by the National Audit Office) was sent was down to price and that was a decision taken by at least senior government official.

One has to wonder how expensive it would be to export/filter only one single field of data from a database.

In addition, this morning's Metro reveals that the two discs have been sent were neither recorded, registered or encrypted.

And don't expect the password securing our data to be particularly strong ... expect the password of the file to be "password".

The Junior staff is probably going to take the blame for all the shambles caused but why s/he was given access to such a treasure trove is incomprehensible; after all, bank coffers are accessed only by senior members of staff and it send shivers to think that other Junior members of staff might have used their 80GB iPod video to slurp the whole database (opens in new tab).

But it's probably the Scots who will feel the heat more as the details of 750,000 Scottish Families (opens in new tab), half of the Scottish population, were on those disks.

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.