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Source: http://www.vnunet.com 

By: Nick Farrell

 

Movie moguls forgot to wipe hard drive

 

Top secret files belonging to an international film company containing financial information and personal details of stars have been found on two computers sold at auction.

Retired press photographer Mike Kirkup was stunned when he turned on the Power Mac 720s, which he bought for just Ј12 each, and found telephone numbers for actors including Stephen Fry, personal emails between the company and legendary director Franco Zeffirelli, multimillion-pound financial deals, and casting details.

"There is an incredible amount of information on here which could cause a lot of damage if it fell into the wrong hands," said Kirkup.

The PCs belonged to film company NDF International, which was responsible for financing and co-producing The Crying Game, Smoke, Wilde and Titus.

One of the Power Macs was used by the personal assistant to chief executive and managing director Michiyo Yoshizaki, a leading light in the British film industry who serves on the advisory panel for the British Independent Film awards.

"Besides alternative film scripts, which would be of interest to collectors, there were letters which showed that Yoshizaki was interested in buying the rights to Karma Sutra 2 and shooting a new production with Franco Zeffirelli," said Kirkup.

Also included were letters to the former Beatle George Harrison's production company Handmade Films, long lists of cast telephone numbers and information that would have been interesting to tabloid gossip columns.

"There is a note here that they were considering Sting for a cameo role in the film Wilde and considering the actress Teresa Russell for the part of Wilde's wife. The role went to Jennifer Ehle," explained Kirkup.

But of more concern to the company would be details of its multiple bank accounts and financial affairs.

"It would not take much for anyone to use this information to illegally remove money from the company," said Kirkup. "Certainly I would take great care 'wiping ' my hard drive before selling any computer.

"Any good programmer can retrieve old files. If I had personal or company banking details on it I would hesitate in selling it."

A spokesman for NDF said that the computers had been replaced two years ago and that the data had been copied.

"They had sat in the corner of the office and we assumed they had been wiped. When we came to move from our Soho offices we decided to get rid of them," he said.

But the company considered the data, which covered the period 1996 to 2000, as very old and of no interest, as all projects had been finished. "It is a little worrying that all that financial information was there," admitted the spokesman.

Kirkup said he was happy to either wipe the computers or hand the data over to NDF. "I am acting in good faith here," he said.

Margaret Manwaring, compliance manager at the Information Commission, said that there is clear evidence of a breach of the Data Protection Act by NDF but that the case was unlikely to end up in a criminal prosecution.

"If we receive a complaint we will approach the company and ask it to improve its systems," she said.

"If one of the stars whose phone numbers were on the list complained then it would be possible for them to get damages if they could prove that they had been financially harmed by the information being disclosed."

 

 

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