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UK Ministry of Defence redaction error exposes military radar secrets

Black text plus black background doesn't equal data security
Mon Oct 10 2011, 13:28

THE UK MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MoD) found itself in the middle of an embarrassing situation over the weekend after it was discovered that a document about military radar systems was not properly redacted before being made public.

The Daily Star reports that the 22-page PDF document entitled "Air Defence And Air Traffic Systems Radar Transportation Study - Part 2" revealed that wind farms can interfere with the normal operation of radar stations.

This information, including details about mitigation methods, was supposed to be blacked out before the document was published on Parliament's website. However, this was done in a way that allowed it to easily be recovered.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with antivirus vendor Sophos, called the mistake a schoolboy error and pointed out what should have been obvious for the MoD worker who redacted the file - that "simply putting black text on a black background does not stop people from cutting-and-pasting the contents".

What's even worse is that it's not the first time that something like this has happened. In April a similar mistake revealed secrets about nuclear submarines. In both incidents the MoD scrambled to replace the sensitive documents with properly redacted versions.

"One hopes that they have learnt their lesson by now and provided an easy-to-understand guide for staff on how to properly redact documents," Cluley commented.

Adobe Acrobat, one of the most popular PDF publishing tools, has had a special redaction feature for years now. It only requires selecting the content to be redacted and applying the changes. Other PDF editing tools have similar features. µ

 

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