News broke yesterday that another disgraceful and dangerous loss of data had taken place at the MoD. The personal details of up to 1.7 million people who had applied to join the armed forces have been stolen. Even more astoundingly, particularly for a military department, it's "unlikely" that the data was encrypted.
And, it seems, the more willing you were to fight for Queen and country, the more you will be affected. If casual enquiries were made, only a name and contact details would have been stored, but if you completed a full application (presumably a sensible thing to do if you wanted to get in) then the full shebang is out there: your national insurance and passport numbers, your driving licence details, even your bank account.
The MoD has said it is "shocked" at the loss - but this is simply not good enough, and I imagine this will be scant consolation to those who are now looking identity theft and fraud (or worse) straight in the face.
Coming in the wake of the theft of 658 laptops and 26 memory sticks that were lost a mere 3 months ago, serious questions need to be asked about how and why the MoD is storing data. If you are applying to enter the armed forces - only applying mind, you haven't actually joined up - then why oh why do they need your bank details? Or your driving licence AND passport number AND national insurance? And then why tempt fate by centralising it and storing it all in one place, not just in one office but on one, singular, solitary hard drive?
Gathering this amount of information represents ludicrous overkill, and storing it in this manner is naive to the point of idiocy. With all the external threats our armed forces face, do we want to help our enemies by not only telling them what part of the armed services they're going into, but also the home address of their family, where and how they store their money and any other information that might be helpful?
Any loss of data is seriously negligent, but when it is military information the effects can be disasterous. If I was thinking about joining up, this latest episode in the saga of incompetence on the part of the state would not inspire me with great confidence that they were going to look after me. If they can't even protect my name and address, how are they going to protect me?