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MoJ admits data breaches affecting 45,000

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The Ministry of Justice has reported eight data breach incidents affecting around 45,000 people.

The incident affecting the most people, reported in the ministry's 2007-08 resource accounts (pdf), took place in June 2007. Discs containing 27,000 supplier records, including supplier names, addresses and in some cases bank details, were in the possession of a contractor to the ministry.

No notification steps were taken as a result. The document says that "the data was not lost or stolen but some examples were shown to a representative of a newspaper," adding that all the data was subsequently recovered or destroyed.

The ministry reported this and eight other incidents to the Information Commissioner's Office during the last financial year. Three involved the loss of laptops, one in January containing data on 14,000 fine defaulters. The data included names, dates of birth, addresses, offences and in a fifth of cases national insurance numbers. The laptop, described as inadequately protected, was lost within secured government premises.

Another incident in September 2007 involved a laptop lost outside government offices, and affected only 13 people – but they were applicants for judicial office, and the data lost included their suitability for that office. The individuals were notified, as well as the police.

Four of the incidents involved the loss of paper documents, with one incident in November 2007 involving data on 3,648 people including their alleged offences. One other incident involved the loss of storage devices.

In its resource accounts (pdf), the Department for Work and Pensions revealed three data losses, all of names, addresses and national insurance numbers, affecting in total more than 16,800 people.

The incident affecting most people took place in December 2007. It involved the unauthorised disclosure of data on 9,000 people and saw the department notify law enforcement agencies.

In December, the DWP confirmed that two discs containing details of thousands of benefit claimants had been mistakenly retained by a contractor. These reportedly contained 9,000 people's data.

However, at time of writing the department was not able to provide any further information on the December breach or the two others, one in July 2007 which potentially affected 7,800 people, and one in January when papers with data on 45 people were lost.

Meanwhile, the resource accounts (pdf) of the security and intelligence agencies will carry out work to improve their information security.

"This area will continue to demand significant senior management attention," cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell writes, in his capacity as accounting officer for the agencies in the public version of the accounts. "The agencies plan more internal reviews to support further measures for enhancing the effectiveness of their data security frameworks."

The document, a cut-down version of the full secret report, also says that the agencies formally reported "no protected personal data-related incidents" in the last financial year, and that in previous years, the agencies had focused on reporting incidents relating to national security.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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