Government admits to 200 more stolen laptops

The Ministry of Justice has been revealed as the worst offender, according to figures on laptop, mobile-phone and PDA losses across government departments
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

The government has admitted almost 200 laptops have been stolen from various departments, including the Ministry of Justice, since 2001.

The figures for phone, laptop and PDA loss and theft across government departments reveal the MoJ has had 135 laptops and 56 mobile phones stolen, with a further 34 laptops and 116 phones going missing since 2001.

It was disclosed that other department losses since 2001 stand at:

  • Department for International Development: 29 laptops stolen and three lost, two PDAs stolen and 18 mobiles stolen and nine lost
  • Northern Ireland Office: Five laptops stolen, two PDAs stolen and six mobile phones stolen and 20 lost
  • Department for Communities and Local Government: 28 laptops stolen and four mobiles stolen and one lost

The figures were revealed in written parliamentary answers to questions by Brent East Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather who queried laptop, mobile phone and PDA losses across government departments.

An MoJ spokesman defended its record on laptop security, saying laptops were inherently in danger of being stolen.

He said: "Laptops are high-risk items, being portable and high-value, and therefore more likely to be stolen than PCs. Specific security guidance is provided to staff using laptops. We have robust measures in place to protect the physical security of the department's IT assets and these measures are kept under constant review."

He said nearly all MoJ laptops are now being encrypted in the wake of the Whitehall-wide ban on the movement of unencrypted data imposed following the Ministry of Defence data loss last month that resulted from a stolen laptop.

The MoD said it could not supply figures for the total number of laptops until a review into losses by the MoD is carried out.

Previous figures have shown the MoD has lost 347 laptops since 2004 and Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted that three MoD laptops containing around 600,000 details of servicemen and recruits have been stolen since 2005.

Although the laptop thefts and losses in the public sector appear high, security experts claim the situation is just as bad in the private sector.

Chris McNab, technical director with security firm Trustmatta, said: "These thefts and losses are something that is happening across the board and you are seeing roughly the same figures in the public and private sector. This stuff has always been happening but it has been publicised far more in the last six months."

Editorial standards