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15 August 2007, 13:44

Scotland Yard in hunt for server containing confidential investigation data

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A server containing confidential data from investigations relating to terrorism and organised crime was stolen last week from the headquarters of Forensic Telecommunication Services (FTS) in Sevenoaks, Kent. FTS apparently delayed in publicising the theft.

FTS is a private company operating from undisclosed addresses with around 90 employees, that specialises in the examination of mobile phone devices and applications for criminal investigations. The stolen server supposedly contained criminal trial evidence in the form of detailed information on thousands of mobile phone calls and on the movements of mobile phone users. FTS clients include Scotland Yard, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, HM Revenue and Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service.

FTS stated that the data were encrypted, and referred to "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" so the stolen information would be of little use to the perpetrators even if it could be accessed. However, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis inevitably described the incident as "extremely serious". Speculation is circulating in the British press on the possible background to the theft and who may have orchestrated it. The Mail on Sunday conjectured somewhat obviously that terrorist groups and organised gangs alike might be "willing to pay large sums to discover whether people have enough evidence to arrest or convict them and if their calls have been monitored." However, according to Kent Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard, they are "...keeping an open mind at this stage as to the motive behind the burglary." Nevertheless, the presence of evidential data referring to terrorism cases resulted in Scotland Yard's counter terrorism command SO15 being alerted immediately following the incident.

FTS has been receiving contracts for evidence gathering from the British police service for about 6 years. The company describes itself as "leading the world in recovering data from mobile (cell) phones, PDA's and telecommunications equipment."


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