By Nick Heath
19 February 2008
The government has admitted almost 200 laptops have been stolen from
various departments, including the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), since
The figures for phone, laptop and PDA loss and theft across government
departments reveal the MoJ has had 135 laptops and 56 mobile phones
stolen, with a further 34 laptops and 116 phones gone missing since
It was disclosed that other department losses since 2001 stand at:
* Department for International Development: 29 laptops stolen and
three lost, two PDAs stolen and 18 mobiles stolen and nine lost.
* Northern Ireland Office: Five laptops stolen, two PDAs stolen and
six mobile phones stolen and 20 lost.
* Department for Communities and Local Government: 28 laptops stolen
and four mobiles stolen and one lost.
The figures were revealed in written parliamentary answers to questions
by Brent East Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather who queried laptop,
mobile phone and PDA losses across government departments.
An MoJ spokesman defended its record on laptop security, saying laptops
were inherently in danger of being stolen.
He said: "Laptops are high risk items, being portable and high-value,
and therefore more likely to be stolen than PCs. Specific security
guidance is provided to staff using laptops. We have robust measures in
place to protect the physical security of the department's IT assets and
these measures are kept under constant review."
He said nearly all MoJ laptops are now being encrypted in the wake of
the Whitehall-wide ban on the movement of unencrypted data imposed
following the Ministry of Defence data loss last month that resulted
from a stolen laptop.
The MoD said it could not supply figures for the total number of laptops
until a review into losses by the MoD is carried out.
Previous figures have shown the MoD has lost 347 laptops since 2004 and
Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted that three MoD laptops containing
around 600,000 details of servicemen and recruits have been stolen since
Although the laptop thefts and losses in the public sector appear high,
security experts claim the situation is just as bad in the private
Chris McNab, technical director with security firm Trustmatta, said:
"These thefts and losses are something that is happening across the
board and you are seeing roughly the same figures in the public and
private sector. This stuff has always been happening but it has been
publicised far more in the last six months."
Subscribe to InfoSec News