Afghan Military Secrets Found On eBay Laptop


Personal details of Afghan police and army volunteers were found on a “scrapped” laptop belonging to a British soldier

A laptop that was thrown in a skip and later appeared for sale on eBay for spares or repair contained sensitive military information relating to the Afghanistan War.

Captain Robert Sugden, the original owner of the laptop claimed he had wiped the drive and made the laptop unusable by hitting it with a hammer. The eBay buyer of the laptop, who paid £18.87 for it, confirmed that the laptop was unusable but the drive was in perfect order.

eBay Bargain Is Latest MoD Data Leak

The data on the drive was easily retrieved and had handily-labelled folders. One marked ‘Nato Secret’ held information and photographs of police command posts in Helmand and notes about the police manning the area. These included the number of men, their weapons and patrol details.

The files also held pictures and personal information about “hundreds” of volunteers who had joined the Afghan police force and army. There was also a copy of the “Afghan National Police Tactical Handbook” which showed how the police would tackle the Taliban rebels and gave details on how to recognise a roadside bomb.

All of the data was unencrypted and freely accessible. Had it fallen into the hands of the Taliban, the information could have put Afghan lives in greater danger and compromised the British presence in the country.

Sugden, a graduate of Sandhurst, served with the Coldstream Guards as an anti-tank platoon commander in Afghanistan and has since just completed a year as the Queen’s equerry, or personal assistant.

This laptop story is the latest in a string of bad news about Ministry of Defence (MoD) data losses. In July it was revealed that 340 laptops and numerous USB memory sticks had been lost or stolen over a two-year period and a complete server was taken from a secure site in 2008.

The eBay laptop has now been returned and the MoD said that it is investigating how this latest security breach came about.

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