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UK: Memory stick loss sparks government system shutdown: report 02 Nov 2008 9:29 PM
UK: Memory stick loss sparks government system shutdown: report

LONDON, Nov 2 AAP - A British government computer system has been shut down after a memory stick containing confidential pass codes was found in a pub car park.

The codes relate to the Government Gateway system, which covers areas such as tax returns and parking tickets, The Mail On Sunday reported today.

An investigation is underway into how the stick, belonging to the company which runs the system, was lost.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the system's security had not been breached, but a computer expert told the newspaper the data could enable hackers to access personal details of the 12 million people who have registered on the system.

The Gateway system allows members of the public and businesses to access hundreds of services from 50 Whitehall departments, including self-assessmenttax returns, pension entitlements and child benefits.

Those registering for the service have to provide their personal details.

The memory stick was found two weeks ago outside a pub in Cannock, Staffordshire.

The Department of Work and Pensions was made aware of the loss last week when the device was handed to the newspaper.

The memory stick is now in the hands of police.

A department spokesperson told the paper: "We have moved immediately to make sure there is no conceivable risk to users of the Government Gateway.

"We are convinced the integrity of the Government Gateway has not been compromised and there is no risk to users."

A spokesman for computer management company Atos Origin confirmed "a singlememory stick has been misplaced by one of its employees".

"The company takes the loss of this device very seriously and we are currently carrying out a full investigation of both the circumstances surroundingits loss and the data content of the stick.

"It is clear that the employee removed the device from company premises in direct breach of our own operating procedure.

"Atos Origin is working very closely with the government and the police."
The breach is the latest in a string of scandals involving lost government data.

Nearly a year ago records of 25 million child benefit claimants were lost.

Last month a computer hard drive containing the personal details of about 100,000 members of the armed forces was reported missing.

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