Government department loses more than 300 devices in two years

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy lost 306 mobiles and laptops in 2019-20, according to data obtained under a freedom of information request

A single UK government department has lost more than 300 devices in the last two years, according to a new report.

Using data obtained under a freedom of information request, the Parliament Street think tank found that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recorded a loss of 306 mobile and laptop devices over the course of 2019-20.

The figure has raised serious concerns over just how much sensitive information could potentially have fallen into hostile hands. Established by Theresa May in 2016, BEIS is responsible for a broad range of government policy, including business, industrial strategy, science, research and innovation, energy and clean growth, and climate change.

“If one of these lost devices ends up in the wrong hands, the organisation in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated,” said Edward Blake, area vice president of Absolute Software UK&I.

In related news: Ministry of Defence sees 18% rise in cases of personal data loss

“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,” added Blake.

“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.”

The UK government has not enjoyed a happy relationship with technology in recent times. In October it was reported that an inability to correctly use Microsoft Excel meant almost 16,000 Covid-19 records being inadvertently omitted from an official database.

In 2018, the Department of Health revealed that the WannaCry cyber-attack had cost the NHS £92m, with many blaming outdated IT systems – including widespread use of the-then 17-year-old Windows XP – for the security failure.

And in January this year, almost 150,000 records were mistakenly deleted from databases linked to the Police National Computer, including fingerprint history, DNA details and arrest records.

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