Digital Transformation

MI6 warned about data theft after technician goes rogue in Switzerland

A disgruntled technician may have exposed British secrets to potentially dangerous third parties.

Important and confidential security information from the UK may have been compromised after an intelligence agent committed a theft in Switzerland.

Intelligence agency NDB alerted both Britain and the US after finding that a former employee had downloaded huge quantities of paperwork onto portable hard drives.

The unnamed man, who has been described by a Reuters source as "very talented", had worked for NDB for about eight years, but is thought to have been upset that his advice on data protection was being ignored.

After failing to show up for work on several occasions, he then smuggled portable hard drives into a central building, downloaded sensitive data and took it home. It is thought he intended to sell it on, although it is not believed he had the chance to do this before being found out.

The crime was only brought to light when Swiss bank UBS noticed a new account was being set up that could be traced back to this particular technician.

He had access to most or all of NDB’s networks, so the British government is no doubt very concerned about what may have fallen into the wrong hands.

It is not the first time that this kind of incident has occurred. In 2010, British spy Daniel Houghton managed to smuggle information from the MI6 headquarters in a bid to sell it on.

A less serious case in San Francisco also saw city worker Terry Childs lock all other administrators out of its intranet and refuse to hand over the passwords.

Most companies will not have data being stored that is quite as sensitive as that being handled by MI6, but these situations highlight the importance of proper data protection and archiving.

Offsite backup storage may help where people are simply locked out of systems, while encryption and disaster recovery may also be necessary for firms worried about theft.