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Man in a Shed

Louise the systemic failure here is that it is possible to copy such data at all.

The password issue is a red herring, and perhaps Alistair Darling knew this - though he may really be technically clueless enough to actually believe it. What matters is the level on encryption. Simple password masking is easy to break. However even the encryption won't protect the data from a determined attack over time.

Now that we know such data has travelled around in an open mail system, effectively unprotected we must assume that criminal elements have copies of much of it. (If incredibly they don't then they will be quickly acquiring such data now that the smorsborg of valuable data available through our incompetent government has been so widely publicised.)

When people go on about procedures, recovery of the disks etc they either demonstrate a complete failure to grasp the situation (no surprising as so little of our political elite is technically literate) or a deliberate intention to mislead.

What we are facing is a need to create secure systems and then to replace National Insurance numbers, dates of birth, maiden names, bank accounts etc as unique identifiers in the myriad of systems that require authentication.

This will make Y2K look like a picnic.

Louise Bagshawe

Indeed, I agree. Unencrypted data is basically open data. But it is worth knowing if the unencrypted data even had the minute level of protection a password requires which Mr. Darling claimed it did.

I agree wholly with your point about disc recovery and the massive cost of re-securing the banking system, hence questions 5 b) and 6)! :)

David Cooper

Louise, please not "Datagate" - it only trivialises an extremely serious issue to label it this way. Yesterday I suggested that there was a case for referring to "Catastrophic Tuesday" - by no means an exaggeration and it's absolutely right for you to have used the word in your article to describe how we are currently being ruled.

james smythe

We have been told that the whole database was sent as it would cost too much to split out the personal data. This is surely nonsense. The whole point of a database is to make data manipulation quick and easy. Running a query on the database should have taken no more than a few minutes and cost nothing.

This raises the question as to how, and by whom, the database is normally managed?


With the amount of obfuscation being delivered over this and now these problems being Browns chickens coming home to roost it makes one wonder how many errors were swept under the carpet during his prudent chancelorship.

Tony Makara

What strikes me about this debacle is why wasn't such important wasn't taken by a police outrider? That really ought to be the mode of transport for such documents in the future. Louise I certainly agree with your call for a motion of no confidence. This is particularly important considering the governments failure in protecting the data of 25 million people and in relation to their plans to collate data on every person in the country for their ID card scheme.

James Burdett

Gordon Brown’s entire Chancellorship was about one thing, getting to No. 10. His entire Premiership will be about one other thing, staying at No. 10. Every decision he has made is refracted through his career prism. The changes he made with Bank of England independence are unravelling at the first time of adverse conditions, the tripartite regulatory system choked at the first test. Next year the MPC may find itself trapped by the limits of its remit. If it focuses on inflation as per its job, the economy will suffer; if it has regard for the wider economy it will breach its remit.

The merger of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise is a catastrophe, regardless of the fact that it resembles a sieve rather than an agency of state. It now takes months to get VAT registration, so companies have to invoice twice once for the goods or service and once for the VAT when the registration certificate comes through. The staff seems often not to have enough common sense to work out the tax liability on a dormant non-trading company, not a lot in case you’re wondering. It isn’t surprising when they are supposed to administer one of the most complicated tax and benefit systems in the world, a truly Gordonion knot.

Then there is the ongoing saga of Northern Rock, a company which through a brain dead corporate strategy finds itself on government life-support. The Chancellor running around desperately hoping that another hospital will take the patient so that he doesn’t have to be responsible for switching off the machine. Finally there is the monumental disaster of the discs, the full horror of which will take weeks and months to emerge. Personally I think we should take Brown’s hubristic claim when cancelling the election that ‘we have shown we are competent’ and ram it with force down his throat. I am not arty but a suggestion for someone who is, picture of Brown, a simple fact like, ‘millions of personal records lost’ and generic slogan of ‘Browned off?’ It would be pretty hard hitting.

Tony Makara

James Burdett, yes, Gordon Brown has blown his best chance of ever getting a mandate from our people. He seems to be like a drunk stumbling around in a China shop, everything he now comes into contact with, he breaks. As you rightly say his premiership now is all about survival and milking the trappings of the time he has left in office. Gordon Brown, in his heart of hearts, knows he has no chance of being elected, before long the Labour party will come out of denial and admit it too. John Redwood wrote prophetically about the young Turks in Labour ranks just waiting for a coup d'etat, perhaps their time has arrived?


"Since Brown overrode the advice of officials and sold our gold reserves at a knock down price, costing our economy more than Black Wednesday"

It was the most inept bit of trading ever, for he announced to the market he was going to unload tons of gold onto it, so not surprisingly the market makers marked the market down.

As to White Wednesday that cost £3.3 billion, in other words a fraction of the money Gordon Brown wastes on a daily basis.

Not quite the right forum but I would like to ask of question of Johan Eliasch, does he feel a right chump joining Brown's big tent, especially today, when Brown announced the 3rd runway for Heathrow?

Robert Winterton

'Next year the MPC may find itself trapped by the limits of its remit. If it focuses on inflation as per its job, the economy will suffer; if it has regard for the wider economy it will breach its remit. 'James Burdett

James, to some degree your are right, but inflation is not good and to keep it under control is right. If the MPC had the correct measure of 'true' inflatiuon we would not have had such low interest rates for so long which has cereated the bubble that needs to be burst - 10 years of financial deception/slight of hand are about to hit both the government and the economy , sadly a reality check is inevitable.

James Burdett

Robert Winterton - I know inflation is not good. I was merely stating that if the MPC keeps inflation under control then it will almost certainly result in severe economic discomiture if not outright pain for many people. Although the alternative is not pain free either.

Tony Makara

Robert Winterton, its certainly true that the Labour government has been keeping two sets of books. Some experts reckon that the real rate of inflation is as high as 7% and rising. We have to bear in mind too that the strength of sterling is hiding the underlying inflation attached to imported goods. This is all because Gordon Brown has stupidly tried to create economic growth through demand, rather than setting the focus on the supply-side of our economy. Gordon Brown has relied on credit and spending to fuel his economy and I fear that inflation is about to rocket before long. The pound can't stay over-valued forever and must fall, that will add to the costs of all imported goods, the economy is grinding to a halt and the BOE will have to cut interest rates which will weaken the position of the pound further and open the door to inflation.

Matt Wright

Another FMD outbreak has just been announced. This Govt is in office but not in power. They are a fag-end Govt wasting the publics time. Can we have an election please?

John F

Your observations are spot on Louise., Its a shame however that its taken 10 years of this incompetence before the majority of people in this country have woken up,, in this critisism I include those at the daily telegraph and daily mail with their "Brown is wonderful" rubbish.
Today "Pathetic" Bottler Brown is chuntering on about the Home football internationals and of how he had great memories of past decades,, well here are some of my past memories,
I remember:
1. when Gt Britain truly was great.
2. When people of honour like Profumo resigned. Today the likes of Mclaren, (the england manager who waited until he was sacked)Darling, Brown, Blair the police chief etal cling on and are oblivious to the fact that its the positions they hold which are also brought into disrepute.
3. When we had respect for the police,, today I don,t trust a single word they say because they have become too politisised and close to this Nu Lab government.
The other day the head of MI5 said we are in danger of attack,, I don,t believe him!!!
4. When the punishment fitted the crime and where the likes of Peter Tobin, and other child murderers would have been strung up and thugs birched.
5. When Britain was a free country able to make its own laws and truly hold politicians accountable, Today we are run by foreginers (EU) imposing laws I, nor anyone else in this country voted for.
6. When you could walk anywhere without being spied on by CCTV, or spied on by government departments with scant regard for your personal details. Where you could live with out facing the threat of even more authority intrusions through ID cards or 52 questions before you get a passport.And where, if you were arrested had access to lawyers etc,, not banged up for 28 days without trial on the say so of an invisible policeman.
Memories Brown, yes I have lots however after 10 plus years of your dumbed down, incompetent, corrupt, draconian, stalanist, government the only thing I feel now is contempt, mistrust and anger at those in authority and yes, at times ashamed to be British.
The sooner Brown and his gang of thugs have gone the better and off to Traitors Gate with the lot of you.
Please David Cameron, George Osborne, David Davis, William Hauge etc its time to take the gloves off and move for a vote of no confidence in this government as soon as possible and when Brown doesn,t expect it,, ie like when he is away in Uganda.

Tony Makara

John F, one of the things that most sicken me about this corrupt Labour government is they way that they have allowed disgraced ministers to resign, come back, then resign and come back again. Characters like Blunkett and Mandelson merely used resignation as a way of letting things cool down before they returned again. Such contempt for the British public. This sickening Labour government is the worst in history and for the first time in my life I actually feel oppressed by a British government.

David Belchamber

Tony Makara @ 5.07:

"Robert Winterton, its certainly true that the Labour government has been keeping two sets of books. Some experts reckon that the real rate of inflation is as high as 7% and rising".

You are quite right, Tony, to make this point; I cannot understand why there is not more fuss made about Brown's choice of inflation measure which excludes housing and is nowhere near what ordinary mortals have to put up with.

I think now is an extremely good time to take Brown on about this particular piece of deceit - it might help take his mind off lost data, Northern Rock, rising serious crime, the level of personal debt, MRSA etc.

David Cooper

Matt Wright - I couldn't agree more - Norman Lamont's famous phrase has never been more appropriate. This is also the week when the Control Freak was exposed as the Out Of Control Freak. Let's try and hammer that home too.

Tony Makara

David Belchamber, the fact that these issues are complicated and can't really be explained in a sentence means that the general public often don't get the full picture. Of course the Labour government counts on this and exploits it to feed the public inaccurate information. Just as Labour keep churning out the same old lie about us being close to full employment. They know that most people are just too busy to ever check out the facts.

Furious Parent

I have still not calmed down about the fact that while I buy a shredder to shred letters with my address on, to prevent identity theft, HMRC has given out my personal details to the four winds.

Not only is it unforgiveably appaling that these two disks got away, but it seems that any disgruntled IT employee at HMRC could have taken a lucrative copy or two of all our bank details and sold them to whoever they liked. And maybe they have.

The point is that institutions like HMRC now need a completely new attitude to data. For instance, it should be completely and utterly impossible for any personal data to leave HMRC unless the transfer is physically and auditably authorised by a senior director of the revenue.

And how excited are we all now about the idea of the NHS database, if some IT junior will be able to download 25 million people's medical records and ship those out on two disks? We have to kill the idea of a centralised NHS database now. The risks far outweigh the benefits.

Tony Makara

"And how excited are we all now about the idea of the NHS database"

Furious Parent, as you correctly point out there are serious implications here. NHS records carry the most private and personal data of all. Data that could easily be sold to interested parties. This NHS database must be opposed, it is yet another attempt to stamp and index out people.


Excellent article Louise...

Man in a Shed is absolutely right:this government is either technically clueless or lying through its back teeth about the IT aspects of HMRC, assuming that the rest of the nation are equally stupid. They should forget the idea that they can continue to patronise everyone.

James Smythe's point about running a query on the database ignores two critical facts. First it is an extremely large database - 25 million records to be precise. Second, it is an antiquated database and as any decent IT manager will tell you, running queries of this kind will either a) crash the system completely or b) need to be run overnight so as not to cause the system to slow to a crawl while people are trying to work with it.

The government's own lack of competence in IT runs across all departments: DWP, DEFRA (passports for cows), the NHS and the Home Office, in particular the ID card scheme. They have tried to spin HMRC today as an isolated incident. It isn't. Their other systems suffer from the same problems, it just that the merde hasn't quite hit the expelair yet.

There is another issue. Data is valuable. David Steel pointed out tonight that his own car data had been passed by the DVLC to a third party without his knowledge or approval. What would happen if patient records NHS data was sold off to insurance companies? What is the point of having passports for cows if the FMD leaks are from government-owned laboratories? Why bother having compliance legislation if government departments drive a coach and horses through it, if MPS are exempt, and if No. 10 regularly "loses" embarassing emails?

Brown hopes that the mere mention of the word biometrics will be enough to save his neck. All the NuLabour goats bleat it out at every opportunity in mindless tones echoing the tin pot aliens of the nation's favourite mashed potato advert. A biometric data reading device is simply that. A system cannot be biometric. Thus, any system linked to biometric devices is only as strong as its weakest link. In the case of HMRC we already know that the core infrastructure (network, secure access and database) is totally unfit for purpose. So simply sticking a biometric card reader on the front of it will make no difference whatsoever.

The systemic failures are also occuring at a more basic level. The flagship NHS hospitals (note use of plural) are treating patients in ambulances; A & E departments are overloaded as they pick up the buck that so-called surgeries and consultants pass on, PCTs are busy closing down good local facilities and the people actually doing the work at the coal face never see any of the alleged millions that Brown and his minions insist has been invested. Not only is the NHS spine unimplementable with the current IT thinking but the money can be better spent. If only...

Yesterday Darling, following on from his generosity with our money with Northern Schlock, gave away yet more with his promise of underwriting any losses due to fraud as a result of the missing HMRC data. No wonder the budget has hit the skids.

Everything that was of value, including our data (how do we know they did't sell it off?) has been frittered away at fire sales prices - gold, the dome, our constitution...

Brown is a con man. He has been conning us for 10 years. Time to put him and us out of our misery.

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