A memory stick that contains information on hundreds of police investigations, possibly unencrypted, has gone missing.
The memory stick - belonging to the Lothian and Borders Police, the police force that covers Edinburgh and south east Scotland - contained the details of 750 vehicles alongside other data relating to investigations.
It was lost two months ago, but only reported missing on 26 February and was last used by staff working in traffic policing.
The police have commenced an "exhaustive" investigation to find the stick and discover how it was lost.
It is understood the information on the stick was not encrypted. Lothian and Borders Police said it did not need to be encrypted because the information was "being transferred within a secure compound within police headquarters".
Nevertheless, the lack of security protection would form part of a forthcoming audit "on how we hold and transport data", a spokesperson said.
"We are confident that this loss does not in any way compromise any individual involved in any ongoing or previous police investigations," the spokesperson added.
The police have informed the Information Commissioner of the incident.
Jason Holloway, northern Europe sales manager at secure USB drive supplier SanDisk, said the incident "shows why data on USB drives must be encrypted at all times -- because they get misplaced, or easily removed from those secured areas".
The only way to protect data was to use "mandatory encryption whenever it is moved or copied", he said.
Last September, the Ministry of Defence similarly defended the loss of an unencrypted memory stick - which contained the details of 50,000 military staff - stating that the device had been locked away in a highly secure location.
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