There will no doubt be many views expressed over the next few days, weeks and even months about the Revenue and Customs’ loss of 25 million people’s financial details on two disks. It is, of course, appalling. I’m appalled. You can see the whole sorry tale unfold on the BBC website, particularly on Nick Robinson’s excellent Newslog.
Quite apart from the several failings of procedure that let this happen – why was the data downloadable, why was it even downloaded to disk anyway, why wasn’t it sent by registered courier, etc etc – on a technical point I’d also question why the data wasn’t encrypted. No one has mentioned whether it was or wasn’t, therefore I assume it wasn’t. So what format is this data in? Word? Excel?
The mind boggles.
Furthermore I’d assume it’s a plain old CD, or perhaps DVD. In which case, it’s probably easily copied. So, if this data were to fall into the wrong hands, all that needs to happen is for copies to be distributed and the entire UK banking system is compromised.
It really is like something out of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“Golgafrinchan Telephone Sanitisers, Management Consultants and Marketing executives were persuaded that the planet was under threat from an enormous mutant star goat. The useless third of their population was then packed in Ark spaceships and sent to an insignificant planet. The other two thirds of the population, of course, did not follow and led full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.”
Is the UK ‘the other two thirds’? Are we really going to be wiped out by a misplaced compact disc?
This idea of failings at several stages and levels of process is not new. We had it recently – or rather, the US nearly had it – when a plane flew across the central United States carrying six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads that were mistakenly attached to the plane’s wing. The CNN report’s URL beguilingly files the story under ‘loose nukes’.
It’s no wonder people are losing faith in our institutions. From criminal corporations to compromised content to governmental and financial ineptitude, it seems our political, corporate, economic and media worlds are crumbling. Perhaps now’s the time for people to turn to bloggers for the truth. At least we can generally remember where we put our keys, we don’t nearly kill people, and we usually at least try to tell the truth.