Leeds loses memory stick with child data

A memory stick containing data on 5,000 children has been lost and since recovered by Leeds City Council.

The USB drive was reported missing by the employee who had lost it, the BBC reported, but returned to the council after being discovered by a member of the public who was clearly a lot more civic minded than the individual who turned a lost MoD USB stick over to a tabloid newspaper earlier this year.

Despite the council employee saying the device held no sensitive information, it actually held names, ages and contact details of the 5000 young children, as well as benefits data on their parents. The council is investigating the loss.

A spokeswoman from Leeds council apologised in a statement, adding: "We have guidance in place which seeks to prevent such incidents occurring including advice on using memory sticks."

"The loss was immediately reported by the employee concerned to their line manager and inquiries were made to recover it. Regrettably it could not be located. At the time, it was understood that no sensitive or confidential data was on this stick, so no further action was taken," the statement continued. "Unfortunately, once recovered, it became apparent the memory stick did have sensitive information on it that should not have been there."

USB manufacturer SanDisk said this showed the need for encrypting such devices. "Policies alone mean nothing: even the most fastidious users will ignore advice sometimes, just this once, because they're just trying to be productive," Jason Holloway, regional sales manager Northern Europe for SanDisk, said.

"For this type of data, it's essential to use strong, mandatory encryption that users can't turn off, or work around," he added.

Click here for the top 11 lessons we all should have learned about data breaches this year - including the fact that such memory sticks don't stay in pockets.