Man charged with stealing Cabinet Office laptop

The Cabinet Office has admitted that three laptops have been stolen in recent weeks, amid renewed criticism of government security measures

Police have charged a man with theft after he allegedly stole a laptop from the Cabinet Office on Monday, according to Scotland Yard. The charges come amid fresh criticism that the government is not taking sufficient steps to ensure the security of sensitive computer data.

The government has admitted that a total of three laptops have been stolen from the Cabinet Office and three more from other buildings in Whitehall in recent weeks, but it is unclear whether the thefts are linked to the same suspect.

Laurence Alleyne, 39, appeared before Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Wednesday morning and was released on bail till 20 August. He had been held for questioning since Tuesday, but was only charged on Wednesday morning.

The incident has highlighted the government's poor record in keeping its laptops -- and more importantly, the information inside them -- safe.

Over the past couple of years, government departments have admitted losing hundreds of laptops. "It would be understandable if one or two laptops went missing each year, but it is beyond belief that the government loses a laptop computer every other day," said Liberal Democrat member of parliament Dr Vincent Cable, who has asked numerous questions of cabinet ministers regarding the government's lost and stolen laptops.

A written parliamentary answer from the secretary of state for defence confirmed that 400 laptops have gone missing from government departments during the past two years.

Dr Cable told ZDNet UK that apart from wasting a "great deal" of taxpayer money, senior civil servants and ministers have a "casual approach" to computer security. If the computers fall into the wrong hands, Dr. Cable said, he would be concerned about the implications for national security.

"Confidential information, and possibly national secrets, could be used against us," he said.