Classified Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents have reportedly been discovered at a bus stop in southern England, raising concerns over national security.
Nearly 50 pages were found by a member of the public behind the bus stop in Kent last Tuesday and shown to the BBC.
They are said to contain printed emails and PowerPoint presentations from a senior official at the MoD.
These include information on the decision-making process that saw a Type 45 destroyer, HMS Defender, sail in a controversial “freedom of navigation” manoeuver close to Russian-annexed Crimea last week.
Other documents in the trawl reportedly included discussions of arms exports campaigns, briefing notes on President Biden’s first few months in office, and the role of British special forces in Afghanistan once the US pulls out.
Most of the documents are said to have been marked “official sensitive,” which is a fairly low classification level. However, the Afghanistan document, intended for defense secretary Ben Wallace, was labeled “Secret UK Eyes Only” — indicating a high level of sensitivity.
Apricorn’s EMEA managing director, Jon Fielding, said the incident was “disturbing” given the efforts underway in many organizations to secure sensitive documents digitally.
“We don’t know how the documents came to be there, but this should serve as another wake-up call for the government to take the need to secure sensitive data more seriously,” he argued.
“The public and private sector are adapting to a new way of working that requires data to be transferred between the office and other, less secure environments. This can only be achieved safely by digitizing documents, which brings indisputable benefits when it comes to data encryption, transfer, storage, online/offline back-ups, and management.”
Concerns are increasingly being raised about levels of cyber-risk at the MoD.
There was a reported 18% rise in data loss incidents at the ministry from 2019-20, several of which had to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
In March this year, a separate report, based on Freedom of Information (FOI) data, claimed security incidents at contractors had doubled over the previous 12 months.
The MoD is currently carrying out an investigation into the latest document data leak.