Central Government Loses 300+ Devices Since 2018

Over 300 electronic devices have gone missing from the heart of government over the past two years, according to new research from Parliament Street.

The think tank sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council, the Equalities Office and the offices of the leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

In response, they revealed that 89 devices had disappeared in 2018 and 163 last year, an 83% year-on-year increase. So far this year, 64 items have been lost despite many employees working from home due to COVID-19 lockdowns in central government.

Stav Pischits, CEO of security consultancy Cynance, argued that cyber-criminals can be incredibly persistent in going after high value targets like government data.

“With an increasingly remote workforce due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s absolutely essential that government departments take the necessary steps to ensure all devices are correctly secured,” he added.

“Even though these devices were encrypted, hackers can find new ways to break through systems to access confidential files, which could be lethal in the wrong hands. So, ensuring robust encryption and cybersecurity measures at all times is essential.”

This is just the latest in a long line of FOI-related research highlighting the persistent challenge of government-owned mobile devices going missing.

In July 2019 an FOI request from MobileIron revealed that 508 devices and laptops had gone missing from eight departments over the previous year. In the Ministry of Justice alone laptop losses soared 400% from 2016-2019, with 201 going missing in the 2018/19 period, according to Apricorn research.

In February this year, another report, this time from global communications company Viasat, claimed that over 2000 mobile devices had gone missing from central government departments over the previous year, many of them unencrypted. The higher number may be explained by the fact that 27 departments responded to this study.

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