Archive for: August 2014

Ministry of Justice Gets Huge Fine for “Serious” Data Protection Failings

The Ministry of Justice has been issued with a civil penalty of £180,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) after what were described as “serious failings.” The failings in question led to 75 prisons around the country storing sensitive data in a way which fell far short of the required security levels.

This is not the first time the Ministry of Justice has faced penalties for poor data protection practices. In October 2013, they were issued with a fine that was almost as large (£140,000) following another serious failure to keep sensitive information safe. In this incident, details of all the inmates at a prison, totalling more than 1,000 individuals, were accidentally and repeatedly emailed to the families of three of the inmates.

The latest fine is one of the largest penalties that has ever had to be paid by a department of the government. The failings which led to the fine were uncovered after an investigation by the ICO into the data protection practices of the prison service in England and Wales.

The mistake occurred in May 2012 when prisons were issued with new hard drives for back-up storage of important data. These hard drives were equipped with advanced encryption to protect the data from falling into the wrong hands and to keep it safe from hackers. However, the prisons were not properly instructed in how to use these hard drives. Specifically, they were not told that the encryption function had to be turned on by the end user (in this case the individual prison). Instead, many believed that the encryption was an innate function of the hard drives and did not need to be activated.

The result was that data was held for more than a year without encryption by 75 prisons in England and Wales. In May 2013, while this problem was still in effect, a hard drive containing unencrypted data of nearly 3,000 prisoners was lost. Some of the prisoners in question had links to organised criminal gangs, making the loss of their data particularly concerning. All of this data was unencrypted and vulnerable.

This issue stemmed directly from an earlier data protection issue on the part of the prison service. The new, encrypted hard drives were originally introduce in response to an earlier incident when the prison service lost data relating to around 16,000 prison inmates throughout the country.

The ICO’s head of enforcement, Stephen Echersley, said: “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them, how to use it, beggars belief.”

Following the ruling, the ICO released a blog clarifying the importance of encryption to data protection.

Islamic State Captures Syrian Air Base, Beheads Officers

The Islamic State (IS) captured the Tabqa Air Base and had laid siege to an Iraq Shia Turkoman community north of Baghdad. Many witnesses said that several captured Syrian soldiers had been beheaded. Evacuation of personnel had been impossible as the IS militants moved quickly. While managing to fire a Scud missile, IS forces continued to push against the base.

Meanwhile, 18,000 Shia Turkomans are now at the mercy of the IS and they are running out of food and hope against managing the crisis. The Shia Turkomans are trapped in Amerli, a town north of Baghdad. For two months, they were starved to death by the IS or they are forced to convert to their hardline Sunni Islam.

No rescue missions for the Turkomans have been proposed as of yet. According to analysts, Kurdish Peshmerga forces are situated to the north, but their attempt to rescue will need extensive air support from Iraq or the United States. US military participation in Iraq will only be limited to securing its interests, such as the re-capture of the Mosul Dam as its destruction could affect the US Embassy Personnel in Baghdad.

IS militants are now moving towards to Turkish border in Northwest Syria to attempt to secure supplies.

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday that it is necessary to destroy the IS militants who had razed parts of his country and that of Syria. He said that if the IS is not contained, it will become very grim for the entire region.


Israel and Gaza Observe Ceasefire and Prepare for Cairo Talks

A 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza had Israeli Defence Forces withdraw by condition. Delegations from Israel and Palestine will attend truce talks in Cairo joined by US and UN diplomats in an attempt to introduce a longer truce between the two parties.

The two sides have conditions for the truce. Israel is asking that a country monitor Hamas’ military activity and progressively disarm them. The Hamas are asking that Israel and Egypt remove the blockades in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the 72-hour ceasefire became an opportunity for survivors to visit their homes and salvage useable remains of their former homes. Destroyed houses and properties were unrecognisable.

There were over 1,800 casualties in Gaza with majority women and children. In Israel, 64 soldiers and three civilians died during the attacks.

Jordan had circulated a Security Council resolution in the UN Headquarters in New York that highlighted the two side have a permanent ceasefire, have a global effort help rebuild Gaza and lift the blockade of Gaza.

Citizens from both sides are still vigilant about the 72-hour troops with earlier attempts being instantly thwarted in just two hours. Minutes before the truce was observed, both sides have unleashed significant firepower, eager to silence the other side before everything halts.