RAF MILDENHALL, England — British authorities are still looking for a stolen computer containing the personal information of thousands assigned to the base.
The names, post office box numbers, forwarding addresses, units of assignment and work phone numbers of the 6,000 mailbox holders at RAF Mildenhall were contained in a password-protected database that an airman transferred to his personal laptop to work with at home. The computer was stolen from the post office employee’s residence in nearby Brandon in late January and has not been recovered, according to the Suffolk Constabulary, the local British police force.
Two suspects were arrested for suspicion of burglary within days of the Jan. 27 crime and were later released. According to records, the men, ages 22 and 26, have "no fixed abode" and are scheduled to meet with investigators March 31, said Lisa Crane, constabulary spokeswoman.
The Air Force is not participating in the investigation but posted several notices at the mail center urging people to follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines for identification theft, which include placing a fraud alert on credit information. A mass e-mail with the same notification and advice also was circulated around the base.
"We believe that the probability is low that the information will be accessed and used for an unlawful purpose," the notice stated. "However, we cannot say with certainty that this might not occur."
Air Force officials said the sensitive information is protected by both an operating system password and a more complex encryption system required to access the data base.
Base officials said they would step up training to ensure individuals who handle private information follow federal policies for managing and safeguarding such data. Those guidelines were broken when the airman loaded the postal information onto his personal laptop in hope of working out bugs in the system on his personal time, officials said.
"He was trying to do something right and went about it in the wrong way," said Geoff Janes, Mildenhall spokesman, adding that the airman was counseled about his mistake.
No reported cases of ID theft have been linked to the incident, according to Mildenhall officials.
Still, there has been a surge in reported ID theft among military members in England since last year. About 150 cases totaling $70,000 were reported in July alone. Most involved thieves who hacked into bank accounts and withdrew money or made fraudulent purchases.
In February, an RAF Lakenheath-based commander reported an incident in which a man had assumed the commander’s identity to sell a car on the popular Web site Craigslist.org. The victim, Maj. John Northon, commander of the 48th Security Forces Squadron, is currently deployed to Iraq and said he has not suffered any repercussions since he was made aware of the fraudulent car sale scheme.
Stars and Stripes reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this report.