Cabinet minister loses PC

Cabinet minister Hazel Blears has had a PC stolen from her constituency offices in Salford
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Secretary for local government Hazel Blears has had a computer stolen from her constituency offices in Salford.

The PC, which was lost on Saturday, contained details of the Cabinet minister's constituency work, and some "restricted information", according to a spokesperson for the department for communities and local government. The spokesperson told ZDNet.co.uk that there was no sensitive information on the computer.

"The PC was primarily used for Hazel's constituency business and contained some details of her constituency work," stated the spokesperson. "The PC did contain a 'confidential' presentation on the housing market from March but the market has now moved on. There was some restricted information on the PC, but no secret or top-secret information. The PC also contained some material from the department. None of the departmental material included sensitive personal data about the public or would be of use to criminals."

The spokesperson declined to say whether the computer had been password-protected or encrypted. "The contents of the PC are protected," said the spokesperson. There will, however, be a review of security procedure in the light of the theft.

"This case has highlighted that our departmental guidance and procedures on lower-level material are not as clear as they should be. We are therefore revising our guidance and procedures accordingly," said the spokesperson. "It is important to remember that this incident relates to the criminal theft of a security-protected PC from a locked and alarmed office. The theft is now subject to a routine police investigation."

The incident is the latest in a long line of government data breaches, including the loss of 25 million details of child-benefit claimants by HMRC last year.

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