There has been no shortage of data loss by the military over the last year or so, from US Army files found on eBay MP3 player through to more than 600 laptops going missing from the UK Ministry of Defence. However, usually these losses concern data such as names and addresses, maybe some financial information. Serious enough to bring more than a small amount of blushing to the cheeks of those responsible for securing such information in the first place. Imagine, then, just how embarrassed the Ministry of Defence must be right now after it has emerged that no less than three unencrypted hard drives containing highly sensitive data have been stolen from the Royal Air Force.

When I say highly sensitive, I do not mean in the perhaps expected manner of pertaining to military movements or technology. Oh no, much more sensitive than that. Apparently the data concerns files appertaining to drug taking by staff, extra marital affairs and the use of prostitutes. All the information was gathered when RAF servicemen and women underwent a vetting process for high security clearance it seems.

An internal Ministry of Defence memo claims that the details could be front page news as it relates to very high ranking officers amongst the 500 staff concerned. The memo states that "The data is not routine vetting information, but relates to those cases that have been referred to RAF because the individuals have serious vulnerabilities that affect their suitability to obtain/retain a security clearance. This data provides an excellent target list for foreign intelligence services, investigative journalists and blackmailers."