As I’ve written about in detail before I applied to become a Royal Marine Officer when I was younger, cockier, fitter and had better knees. I came within a cat’s whisker of making it and if I’d been even cockier I’d have passed first time. At the time I was particularly proud to pass the Officer selection course which consisted of all sorts of fun activities like press-ups, running with a telegraph pole slung over your shoulder for hours, being dragged through underwater tunnels and discussing politics and world affairs. But when I eventually failed to get in I was really gutted, although looking back it was the best thing that happened to me as it made me realise nothing is mine by right, I have to work for it. Plus now that I’m in my 30’s all that getting shot at in Afghanistan sounds less than the fun I thought it would be in my early 20’s.
Anyway, I digress. This morning a letter turned up from none other than the Ministry Of Defence. It had been sent to my father’s address and he passed it on to me. You may or may not have heard that just the other week a laptop was stolen containing the personal details of some 600,000 people including such things as names, addresses, passport details, national insurance numbers and so on. The BBC wrote about it here. There’s been a spate of missing government laptops being stolen along with CDs containing details of all UK benefits claimants going missing. I always shake my head at the incompetence of the people who lose these things, don’t properly secure data or are so stupid as to send unencrypted CDs through the post!
However according to the letter I received from the MOD, my details were on the laptop that was stolen! Ten years ago I applied to join the Royal Marines and they still have my personal data lying around on someone’s laptop sitting in the back of their car. Idiots!
The letter reassures me that while my passport details, National Insurance number, driver license details, family details, doctors address and National Health Service number might be included in the stolen information, I can rest easy knowing that my bank details were not. Nice! So more than enough information to steal my identity, set up a bank account in my name, create some loans and not repay them, but at least they can’t get at my current account…
Fortunately the passport details they have are no longer valid, my address has changed, as has my doctor. But that’s about it. We don’t think twice before handing over our personal details to various institutions but we never consider the fact that our details might be hanging around in their systems 10 or 20 years later just waiting to be stolen. Having worked in the IT industry for many years I can testify to the incompetence of the vast majority of the people in it and therefore don’t hold out much hope that this sort of problem’s going to go away.