An investigation was called after 4,800 government-issued smartphones went missing

An investigation was called after 4,800 government-issued smartphones went missing

Tech Highlights:

  • The quantity of equipment reported stolen or lost after the 2017 general election, according to Liberal Democrat business spokesman Sarah Olney, is “very concerning.”

  • Ministers have been instructed to investigate the loss of 4,800 computers, cellphones, and other gadgets used by government employees during the previous five years.

The Ministry of Defence reported the most missing gadgets of any department, with 1,483 pieces of technology either lost or stolen during that period.

After Ms Olney sought records from each UK government agency, records of the lost items, which included USB sticks and external hard drives, were uncovered.

The Prime Minister’s office, which is part of the Cabinet Office, reported 553 items missing or stolen.

In total, 4,871 phones, laptops, USB sticks and hard drives were revealed to have been lost or stolen since 2017, though the Government has stressed all technology used by staff is encrypted to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.

The MoD did not have separate records for stolen or lost devices, but the largest number of items went missing in 2019, including 239 laptops, 106 mobile phones, 60 memory sticks and 25 external hard driver.

In 2021, a smaller number of items have gone missing including 143 laptops, 25 mobile phones, 79 memory sticks, and 25 hard drives.

Defence minister Leo Docherty said “all departmental IT is fully security encrypted”, and added: “The departmental security unit records and investigates each reported loss from the department. If appropriate, the police are invited to undertake further inquiries.” Of the 553 items reported lost or stolen by the Cabinet Office, 181 were laptops and 372 were mobile phones.

The highest number of both items were reported missing in 2019, with 63 laptops and 136 phones lost or stolen in that year. Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said the department encrypts the devices and he put the figures in the “context” of the department’s core staff of 9,248 people.

Of the other departments to reply to the Liberal Democrat’s questions, the Ministry of Justice reported 1,166 missing or stolen pieces of equipment, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reported 453, and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport reported 322.  

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