The BBC has been forced to admit that it has lost nearly a quarter of a million pounds worth of laptops and smartphones over the last two years, although at this point, the cost of the resultant data loss is unknown.
Security firm Absolute Software shed light on the high cost after it put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The loss of mobile devices by BBC employees, including 17 BlackBerry smartphones, cost over £22,000, while the cost of losing nearly 150 laptop computers came closer to ten times that amount.
These devices were both lost and stolen and just one per cent of them were ever recovered by the broadcaster. It said in a statement that once it was made aware of a loss or theft it would initiate procedures to deal with data security breaches, although it would not explain precisely what these steps would involve.
Absolute Software’s Dave Everitt criticised the BBC for this significant loss of equipment over a relatively short period and argued that far more of the devices could have been recovered if they were not only properly protected but also if they had the necessary software onboard to allow them to be remotely tracked.
Mr Everitt pointed out that licence payers were seeing their money being spent on these devices which were subsequently lost, ultimately leaving them to foot the bill.
The BBC stated that any security breach, data loss or device theft was considered to be a serious matter, but admitted that within an organisation of its size it was impossible to completely rule out the loss of laptops and mobile phones.
Data security expert Paul Vlissidis said that the BBC and other organisations would need to expand their focus beyond protecting data stored centrally on internal systems in order to encompass the ever expanding use of portable devices.
Mr Vlissidis pointed out that although encryption would effectively protect data provided the device was powered down completely after ever use, many employees simply leave laptops in sleep mode, which allows criminlas to bypass encryption immediately.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that it will not investigate the loss of the devices as the BBC has made it aware of most incidents and has not given it reason to suspect that licence payers’ data has been compromised.