Passports worth £2.5 million stolen in van hijack

Passports worth £2.5 million stolen in van hijack

Summary: Graham Tibbetts of the UK Telegraph is reporting that the British Foreign Office has admitted to losing around 3,000 passports and visa stickers, which were stolen on their way from Manchester to RAF Northolt in London, where they were to be sent to British embassies.  From the article:Officials claimed the chip technology incorporated in the passports would prevent them being used.

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TOPICS: Security
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Graham Tibbetts of the UK Telegraph is reporting that the British Foreign Office has admitted to losing around 3,000 passports and visa stickers, which were stolen on their way from Manchester to RAF Northolt in London, where they were to be sent to British embassies.  From the article:

Officials claimed the chip technology incorporated in the passports would prevent them being used.

But fraud experts said they could be easily cloned and sold on the black market.

Apparently the driver of a vehicle being used to transport the passports had stopped to buy a "newspaper and chocolate bar, leaving a deliveryman in the vehicle."  At this point, robbers jumped into the van and attacked the man inside.  The vehicle was stolen and later abandoned, with the deliveryman still on board.  From the article:

When he felt it was safe the worker, who suffered minor head and shoulder injuries, got out of the van and found that 24 cardboard boxes had been taken.

He told police he did not know how many raiders were involved because he was forced to keep his head down. One witness said they saw two robbers jump in the van.

DCI Bill McGreavy of Greater Manchester Police said the passports would have been worth £2.5 million on the blackmarket.

On who's to blame, the article goes on:

Passports are usually transported by the Home Office, which has a policy of using secure armoured vehicles.

But because the papers were to be sent overseas they were the responsibility of the Foreign Office.

A spokesman at the FCO said they had launched an "urgent investigation" into security arrangements.

"We can confirm that a van was hijacked while en route from a production site in Manchester," she said. "It contained 24 parcels of [blank] passports and visa vignettes.

"Both the passports and the vignettes have security features to prevent them being used.

"This is the first incident of its kind and we are carrying out an immediate review of security.

"We have a contract with a security firm. Drivers are not allowed to make unauthorised stops."

The spokesman added that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), part of the Home Office, had taken "further measures" to prevent the documents being used.

The article describes the security features of passports, or lack thereof, and interviews noted security research Adam Laurie on the subject:

The passports were the new electronic variety which contain a chip replicating the data printed on the document itself. They include personal details and a facial image of the holder.

However, analysts said they were easy to clone.

Adam Laurie, an independent consultant, said: "One of the problems with the passports is that there are no security features to stop their cloning. If you've got a genuine passport, dropping in a replacement chip is trivial."

He advised taking the official claims on their usability "with a massive pinch of salt".

It will be interesting to see if this was a targeted attack, or simply an attack of opportunity.

-Nate

Topic: Security

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  • Inside Job

    what a coincidence: the driver happened to stop for a paper and candy bar right at the spot where a couple of thieves saw an opportunity to take a van with a couple of cardboard boxes in them. ;)
    GuidingLight
    • Yeah, seems a bit fishy eh? (NT)

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
    • My thoughts exactly. Plus...

      [i]Passports are usually transported by the Home Office, which has a policy of using secure armoured vehicles.

      But because the papers were to be sent overseas they were the responsibility of the Foreign Office.[/i]

      So, how did these robbers know about this unusual shipment...one of the very few that would be transported in a van as opposed to an armored vehicle.

      I don't think you can get more inside than that.
      MGP2
      • Good point

        I find it interesting that it seems to suggest the two groups have different policies on transportation. Seems like they need to get some unity going on.

        -Nate
        nmcfeters
  • RE: Passports worth ????2.5 million stolen in van hijack

    Another example of the public sectors total lack of controls over security matters, plus a further classic statement from a Government official who clearly did not understand that he was talking cobblers.

    They will never get their collective act together until some strong private sector management get in there to eradicate institutionalised slap dash procedures that inevitably lead to security breaches.
    jonkil
    • Same thing in US

      You know, in the end, there needs to be an advisory board of independent security people that helps guide the government in it's decisions. Richard Stiennon and I both suggested this when presidential hopeful Obama discussed looking for a cyber security czar.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • RE: Passports worth ????2.5 million stolen in van hijack

    Well this sounds a little goofy to me! This has all the features of a targeted attack.
    jamalystic
  • RE: Passports worth ??2.5 million stolen in van hijack

    I think it is great seeing articles about information being taken. We need to remember that physical security is as important as protecting our information from online attack. It is often times easier.

    And we need to also worry about inside men for virtual attacks as people need to worry about them for delieveries.
    Gardul
    • Yes

      Inside jobs and the physical attacks + social engineering are likely the easiest ways to heavy compromise.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • RE: Passports worth ????2.5 million stolen in van hijack

    It is ironic that how government and other groups tell us how to secure our personal data and identity but they don't secure the data they have about us.
    Even though these passport where blank but now it will take more work for the custom agents and other people that handle passports to sort out which one are from the stolen batch and the real ones. The possible advantage of having electronic chips is able to "disable" those passports electronically but for those people that don't have these readers it will be impossible to tell that these were stolen ones. This is the real problem with this electronic passports.
    phatkat