Missing Thumb Drive Causes Security Problems for Germany's Spy Agency

By Carlton Purvis

Portable data drives are convenient but also a security risk. A case in point is what happened to detailed plans for Germany’s new Federal Intelligence Service (BND) building. The blueprints went missing sometime during the building’s construction, forcing a total redesign of the building’s interior. ARD television quoted an anonymous official who said the data was likely stolen and was most likely on a flash drive. Others say it may just have been lost, not stolen, but the damage is the same.

The cost of the project had been estimated at 500 million euros, the Guardian reported. The cost of the redesign is estimated at $1.3 billion euros.

Government officials issued a statement about the mistake to reporters Monday, saying an investigation has been launched to find out exactly what information was taken. The blueprints contained data on security and cable layouts, security checkpoints, locations of alarms, anti-terrorist equipment, and even ceiling thickness.

The loss of the blueprints was originally reported by Focus, a German news magazine who said the blueprints were missing for more than a year before the loss was noticed. Contractors had been warned to safeguard sensitive information while working on the building and to destroy unneeded copies.

In 2003, the security cabinet (the German governmental body that includes the chancellor, head of federal intelligence, head of police force, and some other agencies, and it only convenes when there is a matter of internal security) chose to relocate BND headquarters to Berlin from Pullach to be closer to parliament and major government offices because of Germany’s evolving role in security and foreign policy. Construction on the building began in 2006. The headquarters will be located next to where the Berlin wall once stood and is expected to be completed by 2014.

LifeHacker offers some tips to make it more likely to relocate a thumb drive once its lost and a 2007 article from Security Management highlights USB threats.


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