U.K. defence department adopts encryption after data breaches

Following a spate of high profile data breaches, the U.K. Ministry of Defence is set to install encryption software on 20,000 of its laptops.

It will install BeCrypt’s Disk Baseline software across Royal Airforce, Army and Navy laptops, and users will need to be authenticated before they can access encrypted data. The MoD said the new BeCrypt software would be easily integrated with future technology too.

It will protect data across a range of levels, from ‘Classified’ to ‘Secret’ levels, and in some cases ‘Top Secret’ data.

The new move covers laptops not in the Defence Information Infrastructure, a Microsoft-centered project to provide secure data access online, and developed by the Atlas consortium of developers EDS, Fujitsu, EADS, LogicaCMG and General Dynamics. In 2006 the software was deployed on DII laptops.

Under the DII, 300,000 users will be able to access applications and information via web browsers so that sensitive information is not stored on PCs. After a viewing traces of data are removed from the end computers, and data cannot be copied.

Last November, reports emerged that the DII project had slipped behind schedule, but the MoD moved swiftly to explain that it had overcome early obstacles and was getting back on track. It had also faced challenges as it rearranged parts of the program to fit with changing military deployments.

The Ministry of Defence has been the subject of a number of data breaches in recent months. In January, a laptop containing personal information on about 600,000 new and potential recruits to the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force was stolen from an officer in the Royal Navy.

At the time, the news prompted calls that the MoD should act on encryption and restrict what data is taken off site.

In February, during the investigation of that incident, defence secretary Des Brown said a Royal Navy laptop containing the details of 500 people had been stolen from a car in Manchester in 2006 and a laptop had been stolen from an army recruitment office in Edinburgh the year before.

The MoD has since admitted that in the last two years, over 11,000 of its ID cards had been lost or stolen.

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