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Formula One Driver Narrowly Escapes Blackmail

Thief grabs personal data off discarded hard drive

A Formula One driver was apparently too fast in the disposal of his hard drive: A German man has been arrested for allegedly trying to sell to a magazine the disk loaded with personal information that belonged to Force India F1 driver Adrian Sutil.

Sutil reportedly was unaware that his personal information, Swiss bank account transactions, photographs, and correspondence between him and another racing friend were still on the hard disk, which his father had previously disposed of, according to a report in the U.K.-based Telegraph.

The suspect was nabbed near Munich by undercover detectives when he tried to sell the disk to a racing magazine for 10,000 Euros. He was arrested under suspicion of attempted blackmail and possession of stolen personal data, offenses that could send him to jail for up to five years.

"Somebody took the hard disc out of a computer my father sold on, recognised me and wanted to make some money out of it. But after four days they caught him," Sutil said in the article.

Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley said in a statement that the Formula One racer’s brush with blackmail and identity theft is a wake-up call to businesses and users disposing of old computers. The key is ensuring it’s been properly and permanently wiped of data, he says.

“Identity thieves have been known to hang around junkyards picking up old computers just minutes after they have been dropped off, and then using data recovery tools to see if financial records, passwords, and other information useful for stealing identities can be unearthed,” Cluley said. “And if you're a business or mega-rich celebrity such as a Formula One driver the losses can be even more acute."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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