back to article Stolen RAF files are blackmailer's dream

Information stolen from the RAF last September included detailed information on the private lives of senior staff, including drug abuse, problems with alcohol and extra-marital affairs, it has been revealed. The unencrypted hard drives were stolen from a base in Gloucestershire in September last year. At the time we were told …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    A few things

    1) Why was the drive no encrypted? Whole disc encryption is a piece of piss to do and doubly a piece of piss for military types.

    2) How could the drive equipment have been accessed without observation? Hello - CCTV?

    3) Why did removing the drive not trigger an alarm?

    4) Why did disabling the alarm not get logged (who, when and why)

    Also: Why does the RAF permit:

    1) Druggies in their ranks?

    2) Alcoholics to hold positions of responsibility?

    3) Adulterers to hold high office? If they can't keep to their marriage vows, what other oaths/promises can't they keep?

    Those 3 are cases for summary dismissal if you ask me.

  2. wobbly1
    Thumb Down

    one rule for the Ruperts and another for the grunts?

    If the senior officers are off their tits on coke while prodding prossies , why are they still in a job to be blackmailed? it was enough to have the hapless Angus Deyton kicked out of a frankly unimportant job of chairing a quiz , but not enough for the chaops who order others to go in harms way to lose their jobs... If these Ruperts were grunts they'd be kicked out...

  3. nigel

    ruskies, iranians mossad.

    All reporting of this seems to assume that it was stolen by garden variety thieves. to me there has to be a good chance that it was stolen by a foreign intelligence agency. it smells of spooks.

    @Anonymous Coward a actually don't think you should kick someone out the RAF for cheating on their wife. the two things are just not linked. boffing toms doesn't count for much either. if your employer used secret access to covert surveillance and your medical records to boot you out your job you see them in court.

  4. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Stand and Deliver .... your Money or your Secrets.

    MI5 and MI6 flexing their Virtual Muscles, John, and Spreading their Wings? And if not, what an incompetent shower they are.

    Renegade Rogues Freelancing with their Special Skills, which is always going to be a perennial problem/ novel tangent.

    And what a sad collection of repressive and oppressive prudes must one be, to allow personal information so much clout to intimidate and destroy ....... make money and betray.

    And to imagine that such scenarios in todays information rich environment, will not proliferate and deepen to paralyse whatever they may target, is to be naive beyond belief.

    The Games, which use Words and Proxy Purloined Information, have only just Begun ...... and the Great Global Game Lead is the Only Prize available.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re : Nigel

    I don't agree with you. The details are about senior officers who might not be able to hold rank or post due to security concerns. Thus by living a lifestyle that raises these concerns the officers themselves have invalidated themselfs from their positions.

    In the forces its also know as consequencial punishment, or "Thats life in a blue suit!"

    Gotta be the parafin budgie for the RAF

  6. Stuart

    Off their Tits

    Wobbly1 "If the senior officers are off their tits on coke while prodding prossies , why are they still in a job to be blackmailed/"

    Standing in the line of fire often requires some strong 'R&R' as has been recorded and accepted throughout military history and accepted as a consequence of winning wars. Not nice, but removing need for wars is a better way of stopping it.

    No - this looks like stuff collected by the positive vetting process (or whatever it is called nowadays). Probably volunteered by the officer involved to the security services. More worrying is that if not treating 'ordinary' personnel data is a secure way could be conceivable - how should we react to not keeping highly secure information 'secure'?

    Then start thinking of all the people who will have access to our own personal data via the National ID database and the ingenuity (i'm guessing a fair number here would not have too much difficulty) of 'offlining' some choice stuff which just might end up on an unencrypted pen drive. Just so I could meet my deadline, the minister's, oh and perhaps a bonus for both too!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    re: A few things

    Some of your points have merit, but "3) Adulterers to hold high office? "; WTF?

    Adultery has no criminal connotations; are you with the Taliban?

  8. Frank

    @nigel re. ruskies, iranians mossad

    "..if your employer used secret access to covert surveillance and your medical records to boot you out your job you see them in court."

    When people at this level of sensitivity are appointed, they sign up to having covert surveillance performed on them and sign up to being booted out for any reason whatsoever. Harsh but necessary in some case.

    Also, I was told by an ex-RAF guy that there are confidential standing orders, applying to officers, which state that they are not allowed to commit adultery with the spouse of other serving RAF personnel. It sounds far fetched I know, but why should he make it up?

    Can any RAF people give clarification on these matters?

  9. Danny Silver badge

    Uniformed stocking and suspenders

    I've worked with the RAF before. They have no idea about computers, your average call centre staff are better trained on IT. They are arrogant little men surrounded by submissive women who are uniformed in stockings and suspenders. Nothing in this story surprises me. For the sake of their own safety their IT should be outsourced.

  10. Gaz

    Re: one rule for the Ruperts and another for the grunts

    Security clearance is required by anyone needing access to classified information to perform their duties so it is unlikely just to be senior officers who are affected.

    I'd imagine that obtaining security clearence requires full disclosure of past and present indiscretions. While arguably relevant in deciding whether to grant security clearance, I'm not sure either should warrant dismissal unless it demonstrably affects someone's ability to be professional (particularly if the mistakes concerned are in the distant past).

    Rather worrying that sensitive data is still able to go walkies so easily. You'd think all the high profile breaches would have been a wakeup call...

  11. Elmer Phud

    @AC 09:09

    1) Druggies in their ranks?

    2) Alcoholics to hold positions of responsibility?

    I didn't know there was a difference between the two or is it that the 'druggies' are the rinks and the piss-heads the officers?

  12. mike2R

    Re: A few things

    Your "Also: Why does the RAF permit:" was the first question I had. Having had a look at it I don't think it is bad as it sounds.

    This seems to be the results of the most intense vetting process done by the MOD - called "Developed Vetting" I think, a FAQ can be found here:

    According to the FAQ:

    "The usual criteria for requiring a DV are "long term, frequent and uncontrolled access to TOP SECRET information or assets.... or in order to satisfy requirements for access to material originating from other countries and international organisations"."

    And the questions are about voluntarily disclosed past behaviour which could be used to blackmail, not the result of disciplinary procedures.

    So I think it's more a case of, "I used to deal cannabis when I was a student, and people who knew me then would be aware of this" rather than, "when I fly close air support over Helmand Province I like to snort charlie and engage in phone sex with hookers."

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @AC - 09:59

    "Adultery has no criminal connotations; are you with the Taliban?"

    I am most certainly not the Taliban and your moral relativism is insulting in the extreme.

    I am pointing out that a person who holds a very high level of responsibility, has knowledge of various defence secrets etc cannot keep one simple promise they made to one other person.

    That they cannot keep such a simple promise (or show the backbone to say "It's over.") is a clear indication that they cannot keep their word. This leads me to wonder what other promises they will fail to keep should temptation (more sexual partners, money, fast cars, whatever) be placed in front of them. It is not the adultery per se that is the problem, it is the inability to keep one's word that is the problem. It shows a pattern of behaviour.

    Ergo, any RAF personnel holding high office caught as an adulterer is unfit for that office and must be removed. Divorcees etc who have been straight down the line about the whole thing need not worry. And no, I couldn't care less about their sexual orientation.

  14. alain williams Silver badge

    Dear Jacqui Smith ...

    and you wonder why we object to our private information being collected by the government?

    We know that the information will be misused or stolen - in spite of your fine words.

    You claim that it is to improve our security. The effect is the opposite and at vast cost to the public purse.

    We hear about these data losses from time to time. I suspect that these are dwarved by a huge number where the loss is not discovered or is covered up.

    You have recently discovered that it is not nice for, what you thought was, private information to be exposed. I don't usually take pleasure at someone else's embarrassment, but in your case I thought that it was appropriate and apt.

    I will be glad when you and your stazi like plans are hounded from government.

  15. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Heard in the RAF Careers Office

    "when I fly close air support over Helmand Province I like to snort charlie and engage in phone sex with hookers."

    I think we have just found the answer to our recruitment problem, sir...


    "your moral relativism is insulting in the extreme"

    What planet are you on? No one gets to ANY position of authority in our culture without lying their socks off. I wonder what you think of the famous security service quote that Saddam Hussein could have weapons of mass destruction pointed at us in 45 minutes?

  16. Dave


    Who says that this all refers to high-ranking officers?

    Most TOP SECRET stuff is actually simple comms equipment, which gets looked after by the very lowest ranks.

  17. robbie

    @AC 10:41

    Come out and display your real virtual self rather than hide behind the arras of your anonymity.

    Get real! The trouble with adulterous behaviour is nothing to do with moral integrity and trustworthiness, but rather the possibility of feuding in the ranks and in extremis being blackmailed into spying by foreign johnnies.

  18. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    @Dodgy Geezer

    "I wonder what you think of the famous security service quote that Saddam Hussein could have weapons of mass destruction pointed at us in 45 minutes?"

    I think it was a lie made up by one Anthony Blair for which he should have faced the beak.

    It led us into an illegal war (a war with a genocidal psycho, granted, but illegal nonetheless).

    Actually, he should have faced the beak over quite a few things.

    Just because everyone else does it, does not make it right.

  19. nigel

    the moral arbitor

    respondents to my post.

    the problem with saying things such as having affairs or using prostitutes is pertinent to someone's employment is that this is essentially a moral judgement. and who's to decide by whose moral framework ones employment should be determined.

    it's a dangerous area. it's not so long since these investigative techniques were used to out people suspected as being gay. which on reflection we now see as morally suspect.

    the case for this kind of snoopery has always been that people could be blackmailed by the ruskies. (though i suspect there is more than an element of moral superiority and out and out prejudice.) It is ironic then that in this case the process of trying to prevent it has exacerbated it. it's always been somewhat self fulfilling. as in you could get thrown out the intelligence services for being gay, because you could be blackmailed, and you could be blackmailed because you could lose your job.

  20. Dan
    Black Helicopters


    I served in the RAF, and there were indeed standing orders (a standing order is not much different to a law in laymans terms) that commiting adultery with a colleague's partner (even if you yourself are single) is a no-no. Can't remember what the punishment was though.

    It's all about morale, at the end of the day. I do recall that when I was in the Falklands (not for the conflict), someone on another squadron there was flown the 8.5k miles home sharpish because his missus was having it away with one of his colleagues. For morale reasons, it was all kept very hush-hush.

    Chopper, obviously.

  21. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Can't work out which is more tragic

    That thieves can break into an RAF base, or, that the disk wasn't secure.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Verbal nonsense

    @AC 09:09

    1) Because having a complete data encryption System for all sensitive data would cost squillions and you'd moan about how the Gov spends too much

    2) See above + you'd moan about too much surveillance

    3) Because this is the real world and not some Hollywood super-spy-thriller-action Film with touching emotional pieces from the male lead to show he's a real modern man

    4) see above 1, 2, 3

    As for the next 3...

    Human beings are complicated things. Some like to get high/low, or lie and cheat. This is considered 'normal' for a human.

    In fact, I'd go further to say that if those who choose to serve, are ordered to cause brutal harm to men/women/children with bombs/chemicals/bullets or other such unfriendly items; I think they should get free drugs to help them deal with it.

    As for your view on Adultery. I feel sorry for your wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend/pet. Puritanism is always dull.

    As for your inequitable inference that it's OK for lower ranks to indulge, well, you really have a maladjusted view on reality. OK for some, but not others???!

    @nigel 09:34

    I recall an elder statesman (Ted Heath I think) saying that there was no such thing as a government conspiracy - just a series of mis-managed cock-ups.

    Given the inadequacies of our own intelligence services, I'm sorry, but I don't think those of other nations is up to much either.

    Then there's the case of WHY! The only people who really benefit from high-level-military-blackmail are the purveyors of the super-spy-thriller-action Films previously mentioned.

    @amanfrommars 09:35

    Eloquently put as usual. I welcome your over-lordship of this planet

    @AC 09:59

    Nice provocative prod.

    @AC 10:41

    Took the bait didn't you.

    @Dodgy Geezer 11:02

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    As you infer, there's a reason these quotes and aphorisms exist. Same as sterotypes. Because it happens!

    @THE WORLD (or at least the limited Reg readers that will view this nonsense).

    Most of us who are parents, and most children know the phrase:

    Do as I say, not as I do.

    Everyone knows what society expects, and most of us have a clue about what is right and wrong (not including all the xxopaths and other assorted mental conditions)

    Doing minor wrongs, like being a drug user, adulterer, drinker, etc do NOT affect our day jobs. When they do. People notice and the fun soon has to stop.

    I have no care if an MP promoting family values has interesting sexual preferences. It doesn't change the 'message' that current society and those that craft the norms (in terms of legal yays and nays) wish to portray.

    Just as getting stoned doesn't affect my ability to do my less public job as an IT Project Manager. So being an adulterer, druggie doesn't usually affect service personnel.

    We're all human, and no-one asks to be born.

    That and having a finite life-span are the only true equalities in the world.

    The intervening time should be enjoyed as best as you can.

    Mine's the one with the handful of joints and the details of this afternoon's customer meeting I REALLY must try not to forget.

    Why AC? Well, it'll satisfy the prudes, prigs and puritans to think I'm hiding.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think For a Moment

    The fact that the data was on the disks proves that the authorities already know about these officers' little pecadillos. So a moment's thought would indicate that it's useless information to use for blackmail.

    What's the threat? "We'll tell the RAF you're a coke addict."

    Not much of a threat if the RAF already know.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re : Dave

    "Most TOP SECRET stuff is actually simple comms equipment, which gets looked after by the very lowest ranks"

    And comm & cryppy techs are the first one that are targeted by any intelligence service. So having people in these positions who are open to blackmail is much worse than a senior officer who would at least have a number of other officers around him all watching each other.

    Still the parafin budgie

  25. David Hayes

    @Think for a moment - AC

    "What's the threat? "We'll tell the RAF you're a coke addict."

    Not much of a threat if the RAF already know."

    Two things:

    1) Only certain people in the MoD know exactly what sort of information is stored about you, their boss may not know a single thing about them being a coke addict

    2) They could be blackmailed by threatening to turn the information over to the press, not the MoD. Johnny Public obviously LOVES scaulding anyone at the minute, and there have been a few "how can he fly if he's high..." responses from intellectuals on here...

  26. raving angry loony


    Unencrypted? Someone should get a court-martial for that, no? Or are their standards that lax?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    individuals have serious vulnerabilities

    And if they didn't before, they certainly do now. Wankers

  28. Hate2Register

    I hope...

    I hope this whole sad, sorry story is a trick by our lads to sting foreign espionage types into going after the fake HDs, thereby revealing their networks. It's completely doable, and would mean that our defence data is not in the hands of incompetent luddites who leave their unencrypted laptops outside the Russian and Chinese embassies with a gift tag. The fact that foreign newswires have been fed the story so expertly leaves me with hope. Hope vrs. despair. Which is it to be? Oh well, I guess I'll have to admit we've been challenged at the intelligence competence game and been found wanting.

    And anyway, this story, being so completely an El Reg core interest, should be a top headline. You guys should announce that the HDs have been found, and any buyers should contact El Reg. Bit slow today, guys...

  29. Anonymous Coward

    a joke

    i mean armed forces vetting.

    a chap i worked with was asked by his navy interview board if he had ever used illegal drugs.

    the answer was yes.

    so he goes on to become a qualified crane/hoist operator loading trident missiles into our subs and going on deployment with same..

    drug and even more so, alcohol abuse in the forces is widespread.

  30. Lol Whibley

    @ AC 12.44

    Polite applause. Well said sir.

    As Mr Anderson said, "Roll yer own"

  31. Andy Bright

    Don't be daft..

    If this is the same RAF I know and love, everyone from radar operators to boys with supersonic toys are universally proud of all their criminal convictions, prostitution (theirs and paid for), drug abuse, alcoholism, extra-marital activities and whatever else may be in these records.

    Each and every transgression is a badge of honour.

    My theory is this compilation was stored so that upon leaving the RAF an accurate history was available for future memoirs, as well as a check on boasting. Last thing we need is some liar besmirching the reputation of the RAF by laying claim to false transgressions. If word got out that they were telling porkie pies then the reliability and reputation of us all would be at stake. Knowing that accurate details of your adventures are there for everyone to see keep such things on a tight reign.

    And remember. There's no greater tool for recruitment than debauchery proven by official records, just ask the Navy.

  32. Cullen Newsom

    lol @ all you cowards

    I'm glad that none of you had the opportunity to fire Alan Turing while he was at Bletchley Park.

  33. James O'Brien
    Thumb Down

    @A few things

    "Also: Why does the RAF permit:

    1) Druggies in their ranks?

    2) Alcoholics to hold positions of responsibility?

    3) Adulterers to hold high office? If they can't keep to their marriage vows, what other oaths/promises can't they keep?

    Those 3 are cases for summary dismissal if you ask me."

    In reply (and yes I know I'm a yank but either way these comments pissed me off because of they're iggnorance)

    [First I want to preface this comment with this: I respect everything about you Brits and those who fought in the wars. I do not discount anything that anyone did over there, but I feel its important to remind people sometimes to think before they insert their foot up their ass. In conclusion: Thank you.]

    1) They didnt say if it was current or PAST drug use. If they blocked anyone who ever tried smoking some pot because they were "druggies" then (as I am sure it's the same way over there as it is here) that would probably exclude 50-70% of the population. Good luck defending yourselves the next time someone attacks and we have to ride the boats over to help.

    2) Umm this is kind of in reference to the above. How many are they're? Alot. Same things apply. alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly, but to some people it's in some ways an allergy to them. Once they start its not that they don't nesscarily know when they have had too much, it's that they crave it until they pass out.

    3) ......In all reality I do in some ways agree with you on this one. If they cant be honest with their own spouse how can they be honest with us? Oh wait, they all lie and we elect them regardless. My bad.

    All I am saying here, AC, is that you should do some research next time is all.

    Now as for you AMFM,

    Now that made no sense at the time that it made perfect sense. . .Glad to have you back. Ill buy you a pint if I ever figure out where you live :)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Anonymous Coward...

    I love the way that Anonymous Cowards on this thread are defending their previous postings - as though it really matters!! You're an Anonymous Coward! Get a life.

    Oh, wait...

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Purchasing, and not just coke and hookers

    Surely worrying about foreign agents is a bit last century. Lets face it who on Earth really cares about Britains military secrets? Its not like we're ever going to be doing things without American permission. The best that they might get is a bit of stuff about what the Americans think, which can surely be got hold of more easily from the Americans.

    Personally I think that the risk is over where our money is going. We should surely worry about whether or not the companies flogging the kit to the prostitute-shagging coke-snorting senior officers in charge of buying kit knew about this little lot .... "Buy our kit or either the missus and the Sun sees the photo of you and Kirstie and the goat" ..

    or "Its terrible how much these girls charge a night... how on Earth could you pay that kind of bill with your wages... let us help you out... and if we help you, we'd hope that you would help us...".

    Are we feeling cynical yet?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Personel records

    This sounds like my old man when he was in the RAAF got involved with some floozie left an hotel without paying the tab and got hauled over the coals by his C.O. served the Bastard right.

    alien cos he is to me.....

  37. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Re: A few things

    If they were spooky enough to gather all this data you would expect them to be spooky enough to keep it safe. So many times things happen as if by 'mistake'. Oooops, we messed up!

    I suspect it's standard practice to allow people to do some sackable things but not sack them. If they have done nothing wrong then how are you going to sack them? Same with MP's expenses, a crisis is an opportunity, but one that was a long time in the planning and setting up stages.

    Better still if you need someone to do a difficult task like prove that there were no special rendition flights then someone with a few personal problems might be persuaded to comit suicide on a mountain before any shit hits the fan.

    There has even been some suggestion that some of the shamed MP's might be suicided. Nothing like spring cleaning to take your mind off your problems.

  38. John Dougald McCallum

    Adulterous Officers etc

    all the people on these records are only those that were cought.As for the RAF I woudnot know for certain but I should think that screwing a fellow Officers wife/husband _could_ be seen as conduct un becomming if it became known especialy _if_ that wife/husband is also an Officer.AS for drugs after prison the services are the easiest section of society to get them no prescritions needed and there are or were very cusorry searches by costoms on return to home port/base from forien postings,exercises,cruises whathave you so long as you show them something usualy toys for the kids perfume for the missus booze for your self OH and fags for everbody else.

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