back to article HMRC offers £20k reward for ID goldmine CDs

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is offering a reward of £20,000 for information leading to the recovery of the lost child benefit data discs. The discs, with information on 25m people, were lost in mid-November en route from a child benefit office in Sunderland to the National Audit Office. Estimates of the potential value …

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  1. James
    Unhappy

    Lost CDs

    Don't you just hate it when you can't find your Windows reinstall disk and have to go through stacks of CDs to find it? Imagine doing that on the scale of several offices!!!

    Maybe instead of paying the cost of 47 police officers' time to do the searching maybe they should offer a bonus to their staff to find it on one of their desks.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Buckingham Palace Road?

    Hang on, the NAO are only a few doors down from google's london office, if they got put in the wrong letterbox.....

    How long before we se a new labs project http://personaldata.google.co.uk

    :-)

  3. David
    Unhappy

    wtf

    "Staff were told that finding the discs and handing them to their union representative or line manager would not amount to a criminal offence"

    i've lost my car keys, if any of you find them, i'll see you in court!! you dirty finding bastards

    coat has been ordered

  4. John Imrie
    Happy

    Other CDs

    The Met said the search had been particularly difficult due to how common computer discs are and the number and size of offices which needed searching.

    I wonder how many other 'missing' CD's have been found.

    Perhaps an FOI request is required.

  5. Toby Rose
    Alert

    Here are the discs

    Not only a waste of time and money for the police but also the HMRC. They'll have to verify each CD received. There will be many pretenders to the 20 grand and one CD looks pretty much like another.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs

    I wonder how long before "Her Majesty" revokes her sponsorship of Revenue and Customs?

    I mean, seriously, the morons that run the place have surely done enough to lose their royal patronage - Some might even consider that they've brought HM's name into disrepute.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    first rule

    The first rule in computer literacy is to ensure that you make regular back-ups, if only HMRC had covered this basic step they wouldn't need to be looking so hard for the data now.

    i'd best get back to my other posts now..

    A.C.

  8. ben
    Paris Hilton

    Cash in hand?

    Sounds like a win-win for whoever has the CDs to me.

    Copy them, sells the copies and also return the originals. An extra £20k for doing nothing...

  9. Richard
    Alert

    I hope

    that "Junior" staffers have had the ability to burn their own version removed, otherwise there'll be a sudden yellow envelope and jiffy bag shortage in HMRC to go with their other problems.

  10. Andy Worth

    Copying?

    So, they've lost the data, they'll pay £20 grand to get the disks back.....why not just make a copy and then give them back? I'd put money on them not having any sort of copy protection.

    Actually, how many times do you think the data could be returned before they twigged?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Nero will do the trick!

    1) Download nero

    2) Copy the disks as many times as you like - amazing you can do that with digital media

    3) Profit! Give the disks back AND keep them! Amazing!

  12. James Pickett
    Go

    Her Majesty's...

    Brenda must be feeling pretty hacked off about this. Perhaps it's time she reviewed all those government operations that she ostensibly approves of - she could start by insisting that she write her own speech!

    BTW, I nominate "insult, meet injury" for the best El Reg subheading of the year.

  13. James Pickett
    Happy

    Found..

    A pair of discs wearing a Post-it note that reads '6ord0n'. They got a bit mangled in the post, so they're not really readable...

  14. Louis Cowan
    Unhappy

    politicians

    Sigh.. While I understand that these CDs undoubtedly pose a threat should they fall into the wrong hands, I highly doubt the records held on them would be worth £60 each. Typical polititian, making a bad scenario seem even worse.

  15. threaded
    Alien

    20k

    Whoever ends up with them disks could make more than £20k, every day, easy.

    Planks. Utter planks. Utter clueless planks.

    Yet, I suppose offering some reward looks good to the sheeple who vote for them. Baaaa.

    I bet they set up a committee to decide on how big a reward to offer: big enough to look serious, but not so big as to cause a stampede to every government waste disposal site. I then go on to posit that the cost of supposed committee meetings is greater than the reward they're offering.

    Yet, this reward is still less than the quoted cost of removing the data as originally requested by the NAO.

    Planks.

  16. Matt
    Stop

    Hold on...

    Is this Before or After Tax??

  17. Harry Stottle

    Given the Market Value of this data

    is approximately a Billion quid (due to the sudden glut - otherwise it would have been about 8 Billion), (see http://stottle.blogspot.com/2007/11/datastrophe.html) ...

    ...I'd say it's extremely unlikely that the current holder of the data is going to be attracted by a trifling £20k.

  18. Vulpes Vulpes

    Found a couple of CD-RWs...

    .... with "TCO" scrawled across them, and figured a quick wipe would give me a couple of useful blanks to fill up with tunes for the changer in the boot.

    Damn.

  19. Will
    Thumb Up

    20k for getting off your arse

    >Whoever ends up with them disks could make more than £20k, every day, easy.

    Yup, for the criminally minded the disks are worth a bundle, BUT the assumption is that the disks are lost, not stolen.

    Think of it like finding a key in the street, do you start looking for a keyhole or an owner - chances are you just ignore it. If there is a £10 bonus you may pick it up and try to find owner. This is just a way of encouraging civil servants to do the work they are paied to do without all that "yes minister" carp

  20. Mark
    Joke

    Muppets

    What is the point?? Getting the disks back once the data has been copied/used is going to achieve nothing. Another glorius waste of tax payers money so that the incompetent government can put out some spin about how seriously they take this threat......

    What a load of old cobblers

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Don't hand them back!

    They may be encrypted. The Gestapo (sorry..Met police) will demand you hand over the keys to unlock them, but as you won't know, you will be banged up for 5 years and forfiet your rights to any reward!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    60 quid is a bit steep

    Elsewhere in the news they are reporting about a website selling details at a quid a go. Even at this rock bottom price it beats the reward.

    Seriously only honest people would return the disks, and most honest people would (or should) do it for nothing.

  23. Frank Bough
    Stop

    Well NORTH of?

    Please don't start using this incredibly annoying Americanism. "North" doesn't, and never will, mean "higher".

  24. fred

    cd torrent

    I think one can find a copy on piratebay.

  25. Spleen
    Unhappy

    I don't understand

    The government told us that the data was harmless, that identity thieves couldn't do anything useful with it. So why is it worth £20k to get them back? The government couldn't possibly have been telling us blatant lies knowing the public are far too thick to connect conflicting statements more than a week apart, could they?

  26. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    Sussed it!

    I reckon the things arrived at the NAO as planned. Then (when they realised that the data wasn't "anonymised") the NAO flogged 'em to the Russian mafia to pay the last expenses claim of the Comptroller and Auditor general.

    Why, because they're the NAO and they couldn't countenance paying for such extensive junketing and blatant snout to trough juxtapositioning directly from the public purse now, could they?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    The economics don't add up ...

    So, HMRC were too tight fisted to pay 5 grand to filter the data, but can now find 20 grand to waste on getting these discs returned.

    I presume they've already reserved the services of a forensic lab to analyse the burn signature on the returned discs to make sure no one tries to defraud HMRC of said 20 grand ?

    Or is this just a LOB ?

  28. Chris
    Flame

    @Louis Cowan

    Where do you get £60 per record from? £20,000/25million does not equal £60 - more like 0.08p. Even cereal coupons are worth more!!

    Seriously though £20K is nowhere near enough to entice someone to part with them. On the black market these will be worth *much* more...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    One Hopes...

    that the 20k will be taken from the over bloated salary of the recently almost fell on my sword public servant.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There never were any CD's

    These missing CD's were like "cheques in the post" - they were never made in the first place. The junior wouldn't admit it and the lie has been built upon.

  31. Paul
    Paris Hilton

    hmm

    1. start shell

    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/secretdatabase.db bs=2048 count=24000000

    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/secretdatabase2.db bs=2048 count=24000000

    2. use k3b

    3. burn to CDR

    4. label disk "HMRC benefits", put in envelope matching the description, write on address, wrap and send to the hotline and claim reward

    5. profit!

    so easy Paris could do it!

  32. Mike Richards
    Flame

    And another cost...

    According to today's Telegraph, things have managed to get even worse for the government.

    Amongst the names on the disks are the original and new names of several hundred police witnesses to serious crimes who have been given new identities and addresses after testifying. All of them will now need to be moved again and given new identities. The costs? Unimaginable, let alone the real fear these people will be in.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/05/ndata105.xml

    I am stunned that no one has been fired for incompetence - surely the Revenue had people nominated under the DPA to administer personal information. They've clearly failed in their jobs and should be out of a job. If I was as casual with personal data as the Revenue I would have been sacked long ago.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @ Chris

    "Seriously though £20K is nowhere near enough to entice someone to part with them. On the black market these will be worth *much* more..."

    I concur. But a more pertinent question is simply - is this £20k tax free?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The most annoying thing: they haven't begun managing the result..

    What pisses me off most about that bunch of <censored> is that they are still running around trying to locate the disks instead of getting on with addressing the HUGE risk they've created.

    Whoever is managing this can't have an IQ much over room temperature.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a chance.

    No sane civil servant is going to claim this.

    Even if someone did find the disks down the back of a filing cabinet, any claim would be accompanied by the plod trying to be smart for once and suggesting that the individual had copied the disks, stole them originally, etc.

    There is no way that £20k is worth the hassle and permanent black mark on their record. Best bet would be to destroy and walk away whistling. That's almost certainly what has already happened.

    And as for someone who did acquire these disks for shady purposes, its not even close to the right order of magnitude.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    No - No it's alright

    My wife has had a letter which assures her that the data is still on a government site somewhere - and just to reassure her this letter came complete with her name, address, child benefit number, and national insurance data.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Anonymous Coward

    "Whoever is managing this can't have an IQ much over room temperature"

    units please !

  38. A J Stiles
    Unhappy

    North of £20 000?

    "Well North of £20 000" ???

    Since the South is where all the rich fatcats live, whereas you can buy a house in the North and have change from £100 000 (or a pint of beer and have change from £3), surely "North of £20 000" would mean *less* than £20 000?

    Anyway, how will The Authorities know that the discs handed in are the only copies? I mean, it's not hard to do something like

    # cdrdao read-cd --datafile disc1.dat disc1.toc && eject

    # cdrdao write disc1.toc && eject

    # cdrdao read-cd --datafile disc1.dat disc1.toc && eject

    # cdrdao write disc1.toc && eject

    is it? Or have I just given away information which could be useful to terrorists?

  39. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    One and a half billion

    Sympathetic though I am to young Mr Cable's politics, I think he's made a bit of an arse of himself on this one. An identity may be worth £60 *today*, in a world where stolen IDs are quite rare. In a world where half the population have been exposed, I'd say the going rate for a single ID would be approximately zero.

    It's pretty basic supply and demand economics, Vince. It's a bit worrying that you have failed to grasp this. To be fair, it is equally worrying that the two men your remarks were aimed at failed to spot this. One of them is running the nation's finances and the other had been doing so for ten years. Is there an economist in the House?

  40. Dave
    Paris Hilton

    @Chris

    £60 a record comes from Vince Cable's reckoning, therefore 60 * 25,000,000 = 1,500,000,000 or £1.5bn

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    AC

    # cdrdao read-cd --datafile disc1.dat disc1.toc && eject

    # cdrdao write disc1.toc && eject

    I don't think sandals are permitted on health and safety grounds, should be safe.

  42. Mark
    Thumb Down

    Gordie needs to unlock his wallet...

    If this were a ship lost at sea that had been salvaged, the reward would be substantial.

    Whilst there is no fixed percentage, Salvage arbitration awards have ranged from 25% of the value of recovered goods in small cases down to 1% in the case of larger vessels. Even accepting the lower percentage figure, recovery of the disks should carry a reward of about £15million, given the estimated £1.5billion value of the data on the black market (possibly even more to a telemarketing company!). £20k is just poxy. Even given the fact that no risk is involved, the government should recognise that it is in its interest to get them back, so offer a very worthwhile reward.

  43. Andy Turner

    I wouldn't return them

    Imagine if you found them in the street and tried to return them. As people have said, it'd be trivial to make your own copy and thus the police would assume you had. You'd get your house turned over and your computers confiscated and searched. Then they'd find some reason why you weren't worthy of the £20k anyway. If you find them, just cut them up and throw them away somewhere.

  44. Chris
    Thumb Up

    ''I wouldn't return them...'

    That's a good point actually, I didn't think of that.... with the profile of these things there's no way that you're going to be able to get out of the cavity search and conversation of anything electrical.

    So it's £20k for allowing the MET to put a thumb up your arse.

  45. Doug Lockhart
    Boffin

    Minimum wage for MPs and volunteer work for Ministers

    As shareholders in UK plc, let's vote to off-shore our government, or pay them what they're worth.

    Being a generous chap, I'd offer them a small amount of productivity-related-pay, just so they have something to lose by screwing things up for the rest of us.

    I'm sure there are a few folk who've served their apprenticeship while they were colonies. In the way G Ramsay employs head chefs to cover the restaurants he's not actually in, I'd recommend any cabinet includes lots of people boasting10+ years "working for W Churchill".

  46. Archie Crane

    Enclosed is your reward cheque

    Just imagine it:

    "Dear person who recoverered our embarrasing lost data and saved our skins; enclosed is the monetary reward we promised":

    A cheque for £8,670

    That's £20,000 minus 40% PAYE,

    Minus NIC employers and employee's contributions (we have classified you as an employee for tax purposes as you were essentially working for us in finding the missing data)

    Minus CGT - as you didn't really do much work in finding the disks, plus the asset concerned was someone else's intellectual property upon which you have profited by reselling it back to the original owners.

    Minus 17.5% VAT; we have taken the liberty of registering you for VAT, in case you fancy having a go at recovering all the other personal data we've lost; which would put your turnover over the VAT registration threshold.

    Total deductions: £11,330. Total takehome: £8,670

    Kind regards and thanks again.

    Yours

    HMRC

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