Close to 100 electronic devices have been lost by Parliamentary staffers in the UK during the last two years, raising fears that sensitive public data has fallen into the hands of malicious actors.
The official data obtained by Parliament Street think tank under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation revealed that a total of 96 laptops, tablet computers and other electronic gadgets were reported missing by Parliamentary staffers in the calendar years of 2019 and 2020.
The majority of the device loss incidents occurred in 2019, at 53, with the remaining 43 taking place in 2020. Of the 96 lost or stolen devices, 41 were laptops, 36 were tablets, and the reminder included 11 phones and six skype headsets.
Of the 76 devices reported as lost, 11 were on trains, three on a bus, six in a car and even one in a pub.
Of the 20 devices that were stolen, four were from home addresses, one in a hotel and one on the London Underground.
Worryingly, just 18 of the total number of devices reported missing were subsequently located and found.
Edward Blake, area vice president EMEA of Absolute Software, commented on how dangerous losing such devices are. He highlighted that “Devices used to carry out parliamentary duties will contain a goldmine of confidential data that could be lethal if it fell into the hands of cyber-criminals. It’s critical that parliamentary authorities have the necessary systems in place to track missing devices, enabling them to freeze and wipe lost or stolen laptops, protecting public data from fraudsters.
“If a lost laptop ends up in the wrong hands, the organization in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated. 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.”
Several examples of device loss are prevalent in several major public bodies in the UK. Earlier this year, official figures were published showing that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy lost 306 mobile and laptop devices across the calendar years of 2019 and 2020.