BT secrets still publicly available

Secret information taken from British Telecom's main computer is available on the Internet, the computer network accessible by 35m people around the globe.

The Independent reported on Thursday that thousands of secret telephone numbers and addresses, kept on the company's central database, had been leaked. John Major told the Commons on Thursday that having made inquiries, BT was ``satisfied there was no hacking of the system, nor any evidence that confidential information referred to in the [Independent] article has ever been on the Internet''.

But last night, the Independent was able to access on the Internet telephone records of 10 Downing Street, including private direct-line numbers and lines. Anyone on the Internet could potentially gain access to the same electronic documents. A computer security consultant in the presence of senior members of Independent staff connected with the Internet late yesterday. Within seconds, a file was located and opened. It gave details of the Prime Minister's telephones. The material had been ``parked'' on the net on 13 November. It is understood that there are other sites on the Internet at which other secret data can be accessed.

The Prime Minister's information was held on the Internet on the computer of an educational establishment. The electronic mail box in which it was held was owned by a student. It is not known how many other people have already read it, but it is known that the material has been transferred to at least one other site by the student.

The Prime Minister's telephone details constitute one small part of data that was taken off the BT computer. Other documents reveal secret addresses and numbers for MI6, MI5 and other sensitive installations.

BT last night denied misleading Mr Major. A spokesman said: ``We gave the Prime Minister absolutely the correct advice from our investigation based on evidence so far. Of course our people would like to see the information. It is possible that the information could be on the Internet but we have found no evidence of this . . . I want to emphasise again that whether or not it was on the Internet is not the key thing. The crucial thing is that a criminal act has been committed,'' the spokesman said.

BT also confirmed yesterday that it did not know what had been copied from its database. It said: ``It would appear that somebody has taken it off the computer. We do not know what the papers were or what information was called up.'' This admission will fuel widespread concern about the security of the computer.

BT said after the Independent's report appeared that its database, known as CSS, was ``secure and completely robust''. However, it has been confirmed that the company does not vet employees who are given access to the computer. The BT spokesman said that vetting was not required because the secret information held on the computer is not covered by ``national security policy''.

He added: ``There might be things on there that you as a customer would not want people to know and obviously that is why we have legal protection against somebody who breaches that confidentiality.''

The spokesman said that employees given access to the computer were merely asked to prove their identity and provide references. Asked if a foreign spy, with a false identity and references, could obtain access, he said: ``I suppose if you are able to get through any procedure and tell enough lies and not be found out, anything is possible.''

BT has said that it is investigating the security breach. The Cabinet Office, which was reported as co-ordinating an inquiry into the leak, said yesterday that it was waiting for the BT report and had not yet started a formal inquiry.

- Secret BT documents giving details of Downing Street as displayed on the Internet, edited to conceal the identity of both sender and receiver of the message. The top section of the document shows how computers passed a piece of electronic mail across the Internet on 13 November from Compuserve, a US computer service. The accompanying BT data then follows. The document above is a print-out of material displayed on the computer screen when the Independent connected to the Internet at 18.27 yesterday. The document shows the computer adjusting to Internet time (18.25), logging into the location of the document and displaying the same secret BT listing on Downing Street.

(Photograph omitted)

Superhighway secrets, page 15

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor