26 or younger? Temple St Hospital has your DNA.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen any Facebook pwotest gwoups or Twatterfests about this subject. In a nutshell, a hospital in Dublin is storing a blood sample, name, address, date of birth, hospital of birth and test result from nearly every person born in Ireland since 1984.

That means if you’re under 26, there’s a good chance your DNA is in there: your health, any genetic diseases you might have, your behaviours and traits*, etc. Well, possibly. They had a couple of servers stolen in the 2007, so maybe it is there, maybe not. Sure it’s not all that important anyway, it’s just your entire personality*.

Is Mark Zuckerberg – the slimey douche, if you’ll pardon my Klatchian – ultimately right, do people really not give a shit about privacy any more? Are are people just too thick to realise the problems – current and future – that can result from this kind of thing?

Here’s two stories from Times Online with more details:

Hospital keeps secret DNA file: A DUBLIN hospital has built a database containing the DNA of almost every person born in the country since 1984 without their knowledge in an apparent breach of data protection laws.

The Children’s University hospital in Temple Street is under investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) since The Sunday Times discovered it has a policy of indefinitely keeping blood samples taken to screen newborn babies for diseases.

Unknown to the DPC, the hospital has amassed 1,548,300 blood samples from “heel prick tests” on newborns which are sent to it for screening, creating, in effect, a secret national DNA database. The majority of hospitals act on implied or verbal consent and do not inform parents what happens to their child’s sample.

The blood samples are stored at room temperature on cards with information including the baby’s name, address, date of birth, hospital of birth and test result. The DPC said it was shocked at the discovery.

Records stolen from hospital that held secret DNA database: Two computer servers containing the records of almost 1m patients were stolen from the Children’s University hospital in Temple Street in 2007 and have never been recovered.

The data were far more than that lost on stolen bank laptops in recent years. The theft was investigated by the data protection commissioner (DPC) and the gardai after being reported by the Dublin hospital in February 2007. The organisations had decided that there was no need to inform the public, believing there was little chance of the thief being able to access the data.

Patients’ details, including names, date of birth and reason for admission are thought to have been included.

* To keep my wife happy: strictly speaking ‘behaviour’ is stretching it; and DNA probably accounts for about half of your personality, the other half being learned.

This is a stupid game; we should stop playing it.

On post-underwear-bomber airport security, as ever Bruce Schneier sets the fluff aside and gets to the point:

It’s magical thinking: If we defend against what the terrorists did last time, we’ll somehow defend against what they do one time. Of course this doesn’t work. We take away guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We take away box cutters and corkscrews, and the terrorists hide explosives in their shoes. We screen shoes, they use liquids. We limit liquids, they sew PETN into their underwear. We implement full-body scanners, and they’re going to do something else. This is a stupid game; we should stop playing it.

DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated

This is going around the security networks, but it’s kind of important to everyone else too. Note my emphasis in the quote.

New York Times: Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Revenue Bouncy Castles

When renewing my Revenue On-Line Service digital certificate, I was presented with the following:

In order to renew your ROS digital certificate, ROS requires that you run third-party software provided by the Legion of the Bouncy Castle. The Legion of the Bouncy Castle is a well-respected supplier of security software that is approved by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners for use with ROS.


I’m sure the Legion produces wonderful software, and I applaud the Revenue for using open source software for security, but you’d think they’d be able to afford a developer to hack the source and change the bloody issuer to something a teeny bit less dodgy-looking…

Bord Gáis Muppets

Since nobody else has asked yet:

What in fuck’s name was that data doing on a laptop?

Some 75,000 Bord Gais customers have been warned to monitor their bank accounts for suspicious transactions after a laptop computer containing their account details was stolen.

The office of the data protection commissioner told those affected that fraudsters could potentially use their information to withdraw money from their accounts or take out loans in their name.

“The risk may be low but there is a risk,” said deputy data protection commissioner Gary Davis.

Four laptops were stolen from Bord Gáis offices on Foley St in Dublin’s north inner city in the early hours of June 5th.

One of the computers, containing the banking details of around 75,000 people, was not encrypted.

The laptop contains details such as account numbers, home addresses and branch details of people who had recently switched from the ESB as part of Bord Gais’s “big switch” campaign.

via The Irish Times

Tesco Credit Card Security

An open letter to Tesco and the Financial Regulator.

CC: Financial Regulator, Dublin 2
CC: Tesco Ireland, Gresham House, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin
CC: Tesco Customer Service, PO Box 73, Baird Avenue, Dundee DD1 9NF
CC: Tesco Card Center, PO Box 5747, Southendon-Sea, SS 11 9AJ

RE: Tesco Credit Card Security Procedures


I would like to file a formal complaint about Tesco Personal Finance security procedures for contacting customers by telephone. I have been contacted twice by their staff in recent weeks, and I was shocked by their call procedures in both cases.

The first time I was contacted, via a private number, the staff member wouldn’t introduce themselves or who they represent “for security reasons”. They then proceeded to ask me for personal information to authenticate myself to them. When I explained that there was absolutely no way I was going to authenticate myself to someone that is unwilling to authenticate themselves, they cited the Data Protection Act as justification. I hung up.

At this point I guessed it was Tesco Personal Finance that was contacting me, but there’s no way I could have been sure of this until it was confirmed by the second caller a week later, who at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves and the company. However they also asked me to authenticate myself, which I again refused to do. When I complained about the procedures they didn’t attempt to resolve the situation in any way, they simply cited chapter and verse back at me.

I understand why Tesco was trying to contact me; I received a letter about an overdue amount on my account and sent a cheque to bring it in order on the 31st of March. I accept that was my error and apologise to Tesco for the inconvenience, although in my defence I would add that I changed banks recently and simply had no way to pay the outstanding amount, as my previous account was closed automatically by my old bank before the new account was fully open.

I would also add that if Tesco had invested in just one Irish staff member to handle payments locally, or had invested in an online account management tool for Tesco credit cards, I would have been aware of the issue earlier and they would have received the payment already. I understand the service is outsourced, but Tesco can’t afford 50 or 100k for these simple features?

That’s neither here nor there though, my issue is with the security procedures. While I understand the need for these procedures, their implementation in this case is incompetent at best and dangerous at worst. Consumers are told every single day via various sources not to respond to hoax emails or phone calls, not to give authentications details to just anyone, yet here is Tesco ringing me out of the blue, on a private number, asking for my date of birth and mother’s maiden name.

Please change these procedures to protect Tesco customers, and the customers of other financial institutions whose senses may be dulled by these nonsensical security procedures. A security professional could and should be contacted to discuss the best way to go about it, but even someone like me with the most basic interest in security can suggest something better:

  1. The call shouldn’t come from a private number. The number doesn’t even have to work inbound, a simple recorded message can be used to authenticate.
  2. The staff member should introduce themselves by name.
  3. If allowed by data protection law, the company should be introduced. If this is an issue, tell them that their personal credit card provider is calling, but due to data protection law further details cannot be disclosed. I would be very surprised if the Data Protection Commissioner wouldn’t allow this, but they can and of course should be contacted to confirm this. Rest assured it won’t cost anything.
  4. It should be explained to the customer that the provider is trying to get in touch to discuss the details of the account, but for security reasons they need to initiate contact by calling the freephone number on the back of their card.
  5. Apologise for the inconvenience.

You can even automate this part of the procedure because no actual conversation will take place; not a bad idea in my opinion given the inability of Tesco’s staff to work off-script. Again though, I’m not a security expert, and one should be consulted. I’d strongly suggest Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Systems as one of the most respected experts in the industry.

But of course you should do your own research into this and not take my word for it, since I could be anybody; in much the same way that I don’t take the word of someone that rings me out of the blue. Seeing a pattern here? Please, do something about this idiocy. It’s dangerous.

This is an open letter, the full content will be published on my website at the following address:

All recipients are welcome to respond there or by email to [REMOVED] instead of in writing. If you would prefer that your response remain private, please make this clear in same. I reserve the right to post a summary of responses on my website.

Yours sincerely,
Adam Beecher

5 laptops stolen from HSE this year

More uncrypted laptops, this time with health information on them. How many more do need before they put laws in place to require encryption, immediate notification, etc?

Irish Examiner: FIVE laptops have been stolen from the Health Service Executive since the beginning of this year, the Irish Examiner has learned.

Confidential details of patients with lung disease, patients’ surgery, their diagnoses, treatment and other personal details were contained on some of the stolen laptops.

None of the five laptops were encrypted.

Health chiefs are to begin notifying patients and clients over the coming days about missing data on two of the laptops, more than two months after they were stolen. These two laptops were taken together in July this year in a HSE office in Mullingar.

Oyster Card Cracked

NXP sues to silence Oyster researchers

Chipmaker NXP, formerly Philips Semiconductors, is taking Dutch Radboud University to court on Thursday to prevent researchers publishing their controversial report on the Mifare Classic chip.

Recently researchers from Radboud University in Nijmegen revealed they had cracked and cloned Londons Oyster travel card. Earlier this year the researchers did the same to the Dutch MIFARE travel card. This card is to replace paper tickets on all trams, buses, and trains and is already undergoing trials in Rotterdam.