25 Million Brits Exposed to Identity Theft

The BBC is reporting that 25 million Britains were exposed to the threat of identity theft when the HM Revenue & Customs (similar to the IRS in the U.S.) lost a CD containing personal data.

Ouch!

This has to be one of the worst data breaches ever, since the CD was not encrypted (just password protected) and the data included:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Bank account details
  • National insurance number

In case you’re not familiar with that last item, it’s similar to the Social Security Number here in the U.S. What else could a potential thief want?

The CD with the data was sent to another HMRC location by a lower level employee via regular mail instead of using an encrypted network connection or some other secure method. The CD never showed up at the other office and officials are now trying to determine if it was stolen or just lost.

“The data lost – bank account numbers, names and addresses – represents a gold mine for the thieves and is much more valuable to them than credit card numbers or taxpayer id numbers,” said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan.

“In fact, in the black market, bank account numbers sell for the highest price, or between $30 and $400 (£15 to £200), which is significantly more than the fifty cents to five dollars that criminals pay for credit cards.”

This disaster has already forced the resignation of HMRC’s chairman – Paul Gray. I’m guessing the employee involved was also “sacked,” as the Brits like to put it. Let’s hope so.

More coverage on the BBC site – Q&A: Child Benefit Records LostAnalysis: How Worried Should You Be?

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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