The Gateway Government website has been restored after it was taken offline following the loss of a data stick containing passwords and log-ins, but the prime minister has admitted that data held by the public sector may never be fully secure.
The site was shut down on the weekend when a memory stick was found in a pub car park that contained user names and passwords for the site, as well as some source code. The information would give users access to everything from tax returns to parking tickets.
But Gordon Brown admitted yesterday that ministers can never guarantee the safety of sensitive data. "I think it's important to recognise that we can't promise that every single item of information will always be safe, because mistakes are made by human beings," the prime minister said in an interview with ITN.
The device was lost by an employee of Atos Origin, the contractor that manages the site.
In a statement, Atos Origin confirmed that the employee was in breach of security policies and would be disciplined.
"The company takes the loss of this device very seriously and we are currently carrying out a full investigation of both the circumstances surrounding its loss. It is clear that the employee removed the device from company premises in direct breach of our own operating procedure," said Atos Origin.
"Atos Origin is working very closely with the Government and the police."