The Queen’s top secret security plans were left on a USB stick in the street
If you ever find a USB stick lying around ownerless in the middle of Queen’s Park, you might be expecting to see some poor schmuck’s university coursework on it. Possibly the last thing you’d expect to find would be details of the Queen’s private security arrangements.
On Sunday, a man handed in a USB stick heaving with confidential information to the Sunday Mirror. The memory stick contained details regarding the Queen, security IDs for restricted areas, patrol timetables to guard against terror attacks and much, much more.
The man who found the memory stick was on his way to the library when he spotted it among leaves in Ilbert Street in Queen’s Park. When he later plugged it into the computer, he was shocked to find 76 folders holding at least 174 confidential and unencrypted documents relating to the Queen, as well as Heathrow security measures. The memory stick contains the exact route plan the Queen takes to the airport as well as the security protocols put in place to keep her safe. In full, the flash drive has details of every type of ID needed to access restricted areas, including those of covert officers, extensive maps that detail the network of escape shafts and tunnels, the CCTV cameras linked to the Heathrow Express, the safeguards and routes for Cabinet Ministers and foreign dignitaries, the patrol timetable in the event of a terror attack, and the details of the ultrasound radar that is used to scan runways and the perimeter fence around Heathrow.
As well as photographs of scanning equipment and X-Ray machines used by the Queen, the memory stick also contained radio codes in the case of a hijacking, the details of drivers who drove passengers to the suite, and the names of people who were exempt from screenings.
“Knowing certain aspects of this information may make it easier for potential attackers to avoid detection,” a former counter-terrorism chief who specialises in airport security told the Sunday Mirror. “And the cumulative impact of having so many documents, videos, maps and images all in one place represents a security risk.”
The discovery of this highly-sensitive information comes only a few weeks after the Parsons Green bombing attempt which led to the UK terror threat being raised to critical.
What is concerning though is that the files marked confidential were not encrypted and come in the wake of the UK government’s continued and relentless attack on encryption. The security risks posed are an interesting accompaniment to the views of Home Secretary, Amber Rudd who has admitted to not really understanding how encryption works. Suffice it to say, this is a great example of when it’s 100% essential.
Met Police detectives are liaising with Heathrow’s chiefs to figure out how exactly the memory stick containing 2.5GB of confidential information ended up in the middle of Queen’s Park. They fear that the data may have been copied to be circulated on the dark web where terrorism is known to thrive.
Chiefs at Heathrow Airport have launched an internal investigation to understand how the data leak happened and are taking immediate steps to try and prevent a similar occurrence from happening in the future.