US military details found on thrift store MP3 player

January 27, 2009

US military details found on thrift store MP3 player When you buy a second-hand music player, there’s always the chance you might get lucky and find the previous owner has left some music on it that takes your fancy. But one such buyer got something he could ever expected: 60 US military files including cellphone numbers of active servicemen.

New Zealander Chris Ogle paid $9 (US) for a player in an Oklahoma thrift store early last year. After returning home, he recently plugged the device into his computer and found a collection of data files. And as he explained to New Zealand TV show One News, “The more I look at it, the more I see and the less I think I should be!”

The files include details of soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, social security numbers, medical details and even cellphone numbers for those stationed overseas. One News has confirmed these numbers are genuine and active.

That’s not the only breach of security: the files include details of equipment sent to bases and even what appears to be a mission briefing. Fortunately most of the details date from 2005, meaning they are likely to cause more embarrassment than security risks.

US officials are aware of the incident but have yet to make any comment. USB drives have been banned from Department of Defense computers since November; the DoD kept the reason for the ban secret, but it was believed to be a response to some computer on the network being infected by a worm virus.

It’s arguable that this is the most serious government data loss in recent times given the potential security implications. But US military leaders can at least console themselves that for sheer scale of data blunders, they’ll have to go some to catch up with the British government, which has lost USB drives containing personal details of all prisoners and log-in details of 12 million users of a government payment site.

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