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[ISN] Foreign Office security breach


[Examples of leaks are at: http://cryptome.org/fco-intel.htm  - WK] 

December 22, 2002

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is facing demands to explain a series of 
reported security breaches in the Foreign Office computer system used 
to handle secret intelligence material.

A Sunday newspaper has reported the high security Aramis system had to 
be shut down for three days towards the end of last year after 
hundreds of top secret documents went astray.

The material was said to highly classified information with codewords 
used by the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

The paper said that it had been contacted by a whistleblower who 
claimed the system was still so distrusted, intelligence officers were 
downgrading the security status of classified documents so they could 
read them on their PCs.

It has meant that highly secret material was being used on relatively 
insecure systems which could easily be penetrated by hackers.

The Foreign Office refused to comment directly on the reports but made 
no attempt to deny the central thrust of the story.

"We take any breach of security very seriously. Our security 
arrangements are under constant review," a spokesman said.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell tonight 
described the system as a "shambles" and demanded to know when 
ministers became aware of the the problem.

He said that the disclosures raised questions over whether the 
problems with the computer had been responsible for the lack clear 
travel before the Bali and Kenya bomb attacks.

"It beggars belief that the Foreign Office should be relying on a 
computer system which is less effective than paper," he said.

"In the campaign against terrorism developed countries should have an 
overwhelming comparative advantage in IT. But the systems have to 

"Inadequate technical support will not only make it more difficult to 
do an exacting job but is bound to have a detrimental effect on 
individual morale.

"This must inevitably raise questions about ministerial 
responsibility. What do ministers know about these matters and when 
did they become aware of them?"

The Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Foreign Office's IT systems 
for handling classified information are among the most secure of any 
used by diplomatic services worldwide.

"Throughout the development of our IT systems, security has been a 
paramount factor. We continue to invest in our IT systems."

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