Personal data on directors of 122 bankrupt companies has been lost, after four laptops were stolen from a government department.
One of the laptops stolen from the Insolvency Service contained all the information, as well as data on insolvency practitioners and creditors. The others contained no sensitive data, the department said.
The Insolvency Service did not immediately state whether the laptops were encrypted or whether they had password protection.
“The theft of four laptop computers has been reported to Greater Manchester police, who are investigating," the Insolvency Service said in a statement. It has set up a helpline for anyone concerned about their data.
“The Insolvency Service is working with Greater Manchester Police to try to recover the computers that were stolen from its premises,” it added.
The news that the laptops had been stolen from the Insolvency Service comes only a months after calculations by the BBC showed that the government had lost the details of one in every fifteen people in the country in the last year alone.
In June, a powerful group of MPs urged the government to stop creating large databases without first proving they are necessary. The government is building a number of large databases, including the £4.7 billion ID card scheme and the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT.
Analysts recently told Computerworld UK that the government needs to make better use of technology to prevent data losses, and not rely on policy alone. They said data leakage prevention software, network access control and encryption were all vital technolgoy that needed to be used.
Andrew Clarke, senior VP at device control supplier Lumension security, today said: “The portability of laptops and USB devices has presented a real data loss issue in recent years. We have seen too many cases of sensitive information held by both the government and industry end up in the wrong hands.” A combination of network access control and encryption was vital in stopping the problem, he said.
Nick Lowe, Northern Europe director at security supplier Check Point, added: “Even behind locked doors, there’s still a very real risk - especially when the computers and data are not protected with encryption or access controls, and it seems that these were not.”