A laptop was stolen from the Ministry of Defence along with an encryption key in November.
According to reports by BBC News and The Sun, the computer was left in the MoD headquarters by a high-ranking RAF officer. A source told The Sun that ‘this has the potential to become one of the most serious security breaches at the Ministry for a very long time. Laptops have been mislaid before, but not with encryption keys'.
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox told BBC News that the theft was ‘extremely worrying'. He said: “This goes way beyond the careless loss of a laptop or lapses in personal security that we have seen in recent times. I'll be seeking clarification from the Secretary of State as soon as possible.”
Figures from the MoD earlier this year showed that 28 laptops had been lost or stolen between 1st January and 11th May, while last July, it admitted that 658 of its laptops had been stolen in the past four years.
Nick Lowe, Check Point's regional director for Northern Europe, said: “It seems the data on the laptop was encrypted, but what's worrying is that the encryption key was stolen with it – which could give the thief access to those secured files.
“This highlights a vital issue in IT security practice: never, ever leave a password, encryption key or security token near the computer it protects. Even if that computer is inside a highly secure building, there's still a risk that a curious, or disgruntled, colleague could access the PC and data - so the security key must never be left where it could easily be found.”