A second-hand hard drive bought on eBay has revealed confidential information about a US missile defence system.
A joint exercise carried out by BT's Security Research Centre, the University of Glamorgan in Wales, Edith Cowan University in Australia and Longwood University in the US revealed the leak among other data breaches.
The researchers looked at hundreds of second-hand disks bought from the UK, America, Germany, France and Australia. They found information including bank account details, medical records and financial data for businessess.
One hard disk bought on eBay revealed details of test launch procedures for the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) ground-to-air missile defence system, used to shoot down Scud missiles in Iraq.
"This is obviously a serious lapse of security procedures for the agency concerned, but the worrying aspect about the incident is that it may not be a one-off. US government agencies -and, indeed, all government agencies worldwide -should have a policy of crushing hard drives once they have been removed from office PCs," said Michael Callahan, senior vice-president at security firm Credant.
In August last year the personal bank details of more than one million people were been found on a computer sold on eBay.The data included bank account information, mobile phone numbers, dates of birth, e-mail addresses and signatures of customers of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest bank, as well as American Express.
Andrew Chapman, an IT manager at the University of Oxford, found the details after buying a second-hand computer to use as a home entertainment system.