Ministry of Defence staff in the United Kingdom have reported 87 USB data-storage devices containing classified data lost or stolen since 2004.
Five such devices, all of which were reported lost rather than stolen, contained "secret" data, the second-highest level of UK government classified material, according to Defence minister Bob Ainsworth. Three of these losses occurred during 2008, up to 25 June.
Over the whole period, one device was lost containing material at the third-highest level: "confidential". None contained "top secret" information, the highest level.
Of the 81 containing "restricted" material, the lowest level of protective marking for classified data, 55 were stolen - 52 of these in 2006.
Ainsworth, in a written parliamentary answer on Wednesday, said that the figures were compiled as part of an investigation into all electronic media lost or stolen from the department.
In total, the figures show that 121 memory devices were lost or stolen from the department since 2004, with 29 containing either non-classified data or no data at all, and five where the level of classification has not been determined.
The figures, broken down by year, show no devices lost or stolen in 2003, with 2006 the worst year in the period, with 56 devices disappearing. Last year saw just seven devices lost and one stolen, but this year, to 25 June, has seen 23 devices lost and three stolen.
Ainsworth also said that nine PDAs have been stolen and three lost from the department between 2003 and 25 June, 2008. Ainsworth was replying to parliamentary questions from MPs Sarah Teather, Liam Fox and Mark Hoban.
This article first appeared on Kablenet.com.