Public sector device losses revealed

The loss of portable electronic devices including laptops and smartphones is regularly the bane of centrally governed organisations in the UK and now the Metropolitan Police, Ministry of Justice and Home Office have been implicated in the latest figures, which suggest that there is still a lack of policy adherence when it comes to protecting the data stored on these devices.

Since 2008 these three groups have been responsible for the loss of close to 400 such items, according to statistics obtained by F-Secure, after it made a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

One hundred and eighty nine laptops went missing in this time period in addition to 165 smartphones and other portable devices capable of storing data. The Ministry of Justice said that 13 of the lost laptops were destroyed in a fire, while 43 of the smartphones were BlackBerrys which had not been used.

Eleven laptops and 17 mobile devices were lost by the Metropolitan Police, which said it was not able to give any details about how those responsible were dealt with, as such information was not available in its central archive.

The Home Office and Ministry of Justice said that they had not seen fit to reprimand any employees as a result of the significant losses over the past two years.

F-Secure’s Tom Gaffney, said that the severity of the threat posed by these lost devices should not be underestimated as they more likely than not would contain data of national importance.

Mr Gaffney argues that these three institutions are responsible for public safety at home and by showing an inability to keep a handle on sensitive data, they are liable not only to limit their abilities to act but also damage their reputation in the public eye.

According to Mr Gaffney, the security measures and data loss prevention policies are inconsistent and inadequate in the face of contemporary threats posed by cybercriminals and international terrorists. Several high profile laptop losses have caused significant public scandals in the past, with public sector organisations often at the centre of the bother.

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