UK defense department loses 11,000 military ID cards

Another security breach hits the UK government

The UK government is at the center of another data scandal after it was revealed over 11,000 military ID cards have been lost or stolen in the last two years.

Last year, 6,812 ID cards went missing. This is on top of 4,433 missing ID cards in 2006, it was revealed in a Commons written answer.

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that it took the loss "very seriously," and was "taking steps to improve general security awareness."

It added that photographic identification on the cards meant there would be a layer of protection if they were obtained by other people. "They have photographic ID on them, so it would be difficult for them to be used by individuals they have not been assigned to," the MoD said.

Opposition leaders have capitalized on the opportunity to renew criticisms of the government's ID card plans. The Press Association reported Tory defense spokesman Gerald Howarth as saying: "This is another example of the Government's scandalous disregard for the security of our citizens and yet another reason why the public has no confidence in the Government's ID card plans for the rest of the population."

Liberal Democrat defense spokesman Nick Harvey added: "This shows the inherent frailty of ID card schemes and is yet another proof that schemes, such as the ID card database, simply won't improve our security against terrorism."

The loss of the cards is the latest in a string of government data breaches. Last November, HM Revenue & Customs lost two discs containing the details of 25 million child benefit claimants, after a junior employee sent them by unregistered post.

In December, the Driving Standards Agency said it lost a disc containing the records of 3 million learner drivers. Soon after that the Department of Health said that nine of its regional NHS trusts had lost patient data, including medical records for about 160,000 children in East London.

In January, a laptop containing personal information on about 600,000 new and potential recruits to the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force was stolen from an officer in the Royal Navy.

Last month, a buyer acquired a laptop on eBay that contained a disc with confidential Home Office information. However, the disc was encrypted.

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Leo King

Computerworld UK
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