A UK government department has lost a total of 306 mobile and laptop devices since 2019, according to official figures.
The data, obtained under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Parliament Street Think Tank, revealed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had 234 mobiles and 72 laptops lost or stolen during the calendar years of 2019 and 2020.
In 2019, 26 laptops were reported stolen and 17 lost. This fell to 19 laptops stolen and 10 laptops lost in 2020. In regard to mobiles, 126 were reported lost and 30 stolen in 2019, while the figures were 65 and 13, respectively, in 2020.
The large number of lost or stolen devices raises concerns about highly sensitive government data falling into the hands of malicious actors.
Commenting on the figures, Edward Blake, area vice-president, Absolute Software UK&I, said: “Amidst the chaos caused by COVID-19, managing a large, distributed workforce is no easy task, and keeping tabs on valuable devices like laptops is growing increasingly difficult.
“However, if one of these lost devices ends up in the wrong hands, the organization in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated. For example, sophisticated cyber-criminals can steal the data contained on these devices, access more businesses files or intercept emails between colleagues, all with relative ease once a device has been compromised.
“Therefore, it is more critical than ever to have a permanent digital connection to every endpoint, as well as the ability to lock, freeze or wipe the device if it is at risk of being compromised.”
There have been numerous examples of device loss in the UK government in recent years. Last year, for instance, it was reported that over 2000 mobile devices used by UK government employees went missing in the space of a year, a significant number of which were unencrypted.