Government data at risk as departments lose thousands of devices

FOI request reveals Ministry of Defence is the worst offender, with 767 devices lost in a year

The UK's government lost over 2,000 mobile devices in one year, with an average of 39 going missing per week, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed. 

The Ministry of Defence reported the most losses, according to the FOI compiled by broadband specialist Viasat, as the department lost 767 devices over 12 months. 

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The request was sent to 47 government departments asking them to confirm the number of devices reported as lost or stolen;  these included smartphones, laptops, tablets, external storage devices and even PDAs. Of the 47 that Viasat sent the FOI request to, only 27 came back with full or partial responses. 

Between June 2018 and June 2019, the government reported 2,004 devices as lost or stolen, with 1,824 of these listed as encrypted. Of the remaining 180, 65 were reported as "unencrypted" while a further 115 were listed as "unknown". Viasat estimated 255 working days in this period with eight going missing a day adding up to 39 in a week. 

"This data shows us the struggle the UK is currently facing when it comes to securing data," said Steve Beeching, the managing director of Viasat UK, according to The Telegraph. "It only takes one device getting into the wrong hands to give malicious actors access to sensitive content, whether top-secret information or personal data."

The place where these devices were lost were largely unknown (1,629) although a large number where reported lost while travelling, either commuting (78) or during business travel (61). 

HMRC came in second with 288 lost devices and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy lost 197. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office lost 193, and making up the top five, the Home Office reported 164 losses.  

This is the second report in two months of an FOI request disclosing how many devices a governing body had lost. In January, it was revealed that London councils had reported 1,293 devices lost over three years. 

Over the same period of time, the UK's police forces reported 2,600 lost devices, which was also brought to light via an FOI request. 

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