Se­cu­rity breach at Heathrow

USB STICK FOUND IN STREET CON­TAINED CLAS­SI­FIED DOC­U­MENTS RE­LAT­ING TO AIR­PORT

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - by SALINA PA­TEL salina.pa­tel@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @Sali­naPa­tel1

A SE­CU­RITY breach in which highly sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Heathrow Air­port was found in a mem­ory stick in the street has come to light.

At a time when the threat of ter­ror­ism in the UK is se­vere, the 2.5GB USB stick, with an abun­dance of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments with no en­cryp­tion and no pass­word to ac­cess it, is a huge “risk to na­tional se­cu­rity.”

The mem­ory stick spotted in Il­bert Street, Queen’s Park, was handed to the Sun­day Mir­ror by a mem­ber of the pub­lic af­ter he saw the shock­ing amount of de­tail on it which could have taken years to com­pile.

Heathrow bosses have since launched an ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion con­tained 76 fold­ers with maps, video and doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing the pre­cise route the Queen takes when us­ing the air­port. Other de­tails in­cluded: Files dis­clos­ing ev­ery type of ID needed – even those used by covert of­fi­cers – to ac­cess re­stricted ar­eas.

A timetable of pa­trols that was used to guard the site against sui­cide bombers and terror at­tacks.

Maps pin­point­ing CCTV cam­eras and a net­work of tun­nels and es­cape shafts linked to the Heathrow Ex­press.

Routes and safe­guards for Cab­i­net min­is­ters and for­eign dig­ni­taries.

De­tails of the ul­tra­sound radar sys­tem used to scan run­ways and the perime­ter fence.

The scare comes af­ter mul­ti­ple terror at­tacks this year, in­clud­ing the Par­sons Green bomb­ing last month as well as the at­tacks at Lon­don Bridge and West­min­ster.

A se­cu­rity source said: “In the wrong hands this would rep­re­sent a pro­found threat in terms of ter­ror­ism or es­pi­onage.

“Avi­a­tion se­cu­rity is un­der the mi­cro­scope be­cause of the de­sire by ter­ror­ists to bring planes down in a spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. Se­cu­rity ser­vices would not want this leaked or sold to hos­tile par­ties.”

Met Police de­tec­tives and air­port chiefs are work­ing to­gether to find out how the USB drive was dumped in the street.

Air­port in­sid­ers re­vealed they were look­ing into whether there had been an “in­com­pe­tent data breach” or if some­one had been ac­cess­ing files in­ten­tion­ally.

There is fear the data may have been copied and dis­sem­i­nated on the “dark web” where ter­ror­ists are known to buy in­for­ma­tion.

A police source said: “The fear is that this in­for­ma­tion could have been down­loaded and dis­sem­i­nated God knows where.

“The worry is it ends up on the dark web and used by bad guys to pick holes in air­port se­cu­rity.”

A for­mer counter-ter­ror­ism chief who spe­cialises in air­port se­cu­rity said: “There are se­ri­ous ques­tions to be an­swered.

“Why was this sen­si­tive ma­te­rial held on an un­en­crypted mem­ory stick and taken off site? It’s a huge se­cu­rity breach and mas­sively em­bar­rass­ing for those in charge of se­cu­rity. Know­ing cer­tain as­pects of this in­for­ma­tion may make it eas­ier for po­ten­tial at­tack­ers to avoid de­tec­tion.

“The cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of hav­ing so many doc­u­ments, videos, maps and im­ages all in one place rep­re­sents a se­cu­rity risk.”

The Sun­day Mir­ror was con­tacted by an un­em­ployed man who found the stick while on his way to the li­brary to search the in­ter­net for work.

He said: “I was cu­ri­ous about what it con­tained, so a few days later, when I went back to the li­brary, I plugged it into the com­puter. All these files were there. I couldn’t be­lieve it.”

The USB con­tained around 174 doc­u­ments marked “con­fi­den­tial” or “re­stricted” – but could still be read.

An ex­pert said in­for­ma­tion on the mem­ory stick could help fa­cil­i­tate an at­tack if it fell in the wrong hands.

He said: “This in­for­ma­tion would cut down on sur­veil­lance and could po­ten­tially make ac­cess eas­ier.

“Se­cu­rity chiefs will be work­ing hard to en­sure there is no phys­i­cal threat as a re­sult of this breach and chang­ing pro­cesses if nec­es­sary.

“It is not help­ful – cer­tainly not best prac­tice – to have maps and draw­ings of one of the UK’s big­gest air­ports left in the street.

“It is serv­ing up in­tel­li­gence on a plate to peo­ple. It’s hugely em­bar­rass­ing and should not have hap­pened. In the wrong hands it could po­ten­tially be very help­ful and would save them a lot of time in plan­ning an at­tack.”

The Sun­day Mir­ror passed the file to Heathrow in­tel­li­gence chiefs. The man who found it has been in­ter­viewed by air­port se­cu­rity chiefs.

In­sid­ers ad­mit­ted it sparked a “very, very ur­gent” probe and that it posed “a risk to na­tional se­cu­rity”.

One doc­u­ment high­lighted re­cent terror at­tacks to il­lus­trate the type of threat Heathrow could face.

It ref­er­enced the Ley­ton­stone Tube stab­bing in 2015, the Tu­nisia beach mas­sacre which claimed the lives of 30 Bri­tish tourists the same year, and the 2016 bomb­ing in Is­tan­bul’s Atatürk in­ter­na­tional air­port.

The mem­ory stick was found just days af­ter US in­tel­li­gence warned Is­lamic State ji­hadists and al-Qaeda are plan­ning more mass-ca­su­alty at­tacks on the scale of the 9/11 hi­jack­ings.

A spokesman for the air­port said: “Heathrow’s top pri­or­ity is the safety and se­cu­rity of our pas­sen­gers and col­leagues.

“The UK and Heathrow have some of the most ro­bust avi­a­tion se­cu­rity measures in the world and we re­main vig­i­lant to evolv­ing threats by up­dat­ing our pro­ce­dures on a daily ba­sis.”

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