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MoD bod warns of cyber attack risk

Data losses drive security threat

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The accounting officer for the Ministry of Defence has said that data losses and weaknesses in the department's information infrastructure have left it vulnerable to virtual attacks.

In the MoD's resource accounts for 2009-10, Bill Jeffrey says that although the department is working to improve awareness of potential online attacks, the risks to its cyber security is still a worry.

"In addition to the risks posed by data losses and information infrastructure, the risk presented to the department by threats to cyber security is of increasing concern," Jeffrey says.

"The department is working to improve awareness of the risks of cyber attack, and capability to respond to it flexibly and effectively."

He goes on to say that, due to substantial losses of personal data in the past, the department has undertaken considerable work to prohibit the use of unencrypted media.

"As a result, more than 92 per cent of MoD staff have now completed the appropriate level of awareness training and the number of laptop losses fell from 326 in 2008-09 to 121 in 2009-10," Jeffrey says.

He also discloses that the percentage of encrypted department laptops has risen from 27.6 per cent to 70.2 per cent.

In the document Jeffrey criticises the MoD's handling of information as a whole and highlights problems with the department being able to disclose specific information. He says that recent judicial reviews have "exposed limitations" in the department's capacity to "identify and retrieve information for legal disclosure.

"Work is in train to improve the information management infrastructure, but current systems expose the department to the risk of being unable to guarantee access to the information needed to respond to time critical judicial or other requests," he adds.

The department's Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system, which provides services including payroll functions and centralised records of service, is also singled out as a problem area by the accounting officer. He says that despite a number of steps being taken to improve the system, "there are still concerns over the quality of elements of the underlying data set.

"This has meant that we still have a number of unresolved issues to do with payments and visibility of data on the numbers of army reservists. As part of plans to address these, the army will be undertaking a major data cleansing exercise," Jeffrey concludes.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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