Police on terror alert over theft of top secret records on computer database
UK Daily Mail |August 12, 2007
A major security alert has been sparked after the theft of a computer database containing thousands of top secret telephone records from police investigations into terrorism and organised crime.
Worried police chiefs throughout the UK launched a massive inquiry into the removal of the sophisticated computer and other IT equipment from a private firm specialising in gathering evidence from mobile phone calls made by suspects.
SO15, Scotland Yard's elite Counter Terrorism Command, was immediately alerted.
The raid at the high-security head office of Forensic Telecommunication Services Ltd (FTS) at Sevenoaks, Kent, raised fears that vital evidence from undercover investigations may have been lost or have fallen into the wrong hands.
The theft of such sensitive data will reopen the debate about whether private companies should be employed to carry out crucial security or Government work under contract.
The stolen computer server - a metal box the size of a large DVD player - contained details of who made calls on mobiles, their exact location and precisely when the calls were made.
Evidence from phone taps is one of the most important tools in the war on terrorism and in major police investigations into organised crime, murder, kidnap, armed robbery, tax evasion and illegal immigration.
The computer server itself is of little or no monetary value. The value of the raiders' haul is the huge amount of data stored inside the equipment.
Possible markets for the stolen computer could be terrorist groups or organised gangs willing to pay large sums to discover whether people have enough evidence to arrest or convict them and if their calls have been monitored.
The break-in last Monday night is said to have caused 'deep anxiety' among police forces in England and Wales, many of whom use the worldwide expertise of FTS in mobile phone analysis.
Clients include Scotland Yard, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, HM Revenue and Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The firm, which employs 90 people, was founded in 2000 by managing director Jonathan Clark, an independent UK Government adviser on the use of data for law enforcement.
So secretive is FTS that it does not publish the location of its offices in Kent, four other UK locations, Canada, the US, Europe, South Korea and the Middle East.
Its experts include ex-police officers, telecommunications specialists and former military personnel who extract evidence from mobile phone calls, text messages and data from hand-held devices such as the Blackberry to confirm suspects' movements and place them at the scene of an alleged crime.
FTS said in a statement to The Mail on Sunday last night: "We can confirm that the company was recently the victim of a break-in at one of our premises in Kent.
"As a result, some IT equipment, including a server, were stolen.
"The server, which is security protected, contained administrative data and details of some case files in relation to FTS's forensic work.
"In the unlikely event that the server was accessed, none of the data stored on the server in any way compromises ongoing police operations.
"The information is made up of either old cases that have passed through the judicial process, or cases that are already in the judicial system and so subject to full disclosure to both defence and prosecution teams.
"All the data was restored within 24 hours due to FTS's business continuity measures. As a result of this incident FTS is undertaking a full and comprehensive review of security across the whole company.
"FTS are working closely with the police and assisting with their investigations.
"As with many other similar forensic service providers who are contracted by the police, FTS will not discuss the nature of our workload."
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said last night: "This is extremely serious. Terror investigations are extremely complex and depend on vital intelligence and evidence based on phone records.
"While we have to let the police get on with their investigation, it is essential that the Government take every possible step to protect this information and leave absolutely nothing to chance."
Kent Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard said: "We are keeping an open mind at this stage as to the motive behind the burglary.
"However, we and the company have informed other police forces. Our understanding is that almost all information on the stolen computer equipment relates to cases where the evidence has already been disclosed to defence solicitors.
"No evidence has been lost, as the company keeps back-ups."
FTS has been picking up contracts from police forces for the past six years to gather forensic evidence from mobile phones and their SIM cards.
Ten years ago, police forces used BT to assemble mobile phone evidence against crooks.
But in recent years, the increased number of competing phone companies plus huge developments in mobile phone technology have meant specialist firms have been drafted in by many forces to help investigators fighting crime and terrorism.
FTS describes itself as a "world leader" in recovering data from mobile phones, hand-held devices and telecommunications equipment.
It provides expert witnesses in court, trains telecommunications investigators, attends scenes of crime and carries out forensic computer investigations.
FTS has developed specialist techniques and computer programs which are regularly used in serious crime investigations.
"TerrorStorm is something that should be seen by everyone, no matter what their stance/affiliation/political bent. " - Rich Rosell, Digitally Obsessed UK
Get TerrorStorm on DVD today
Infowars.com is Copyright 2007 Alex Jones | Fair Use Notice