Please complete the below form to continue with your question

Hard drive containing prisoner details lost by Ministry of Justice

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have issued the Ministry of Justice a £180,000 fine for losing a hard disk containing details of 2935 prisoners at HMP Erlestoke prison in May 2013.

The hard drive was not encrypted, despite previous warnings, and contained confidential information relating to organised crime, health information, history of drug misuse and material about victims and visitors of each inmate.

If the stored data is encrypted, unauthorised persons cannot view or use the information even if the hard drive is stolen.

A similar incident occurred in October 2011, where another unencrypted hard drive containing sensitive details of 16,000 prisoners at HMP High Down prison in Surrey. As a response to this incident, new hard drives were provided to 75 prisons across England and Wales in May 2012. These hard drives are able to encrypt the information stored on them.

However, the latest ICO investigation discovered the prison services were unaware that the encryption option needed to be manually activated, and was not done automatically, meaning information stored on the hard drives remained unprotected.

Stephen Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, 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.

This is simply not good enough and we expect government departments to be an example of best practice when it comes to looking after people’s information. We hope this penalty sends a clear message that organisations must not only have the right equipment available to keep people’s information secure, but must understand how to use it.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We take data protection issues very seriously and have made significant and robust improvements to our data security measures.

“These hard drives have now been replaced with a secure centralised system.”