In a recent parliamentary query answered on 20 November 2023, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) disclosed alarming figures regarding the loss and theft of electronic devices within the department over the past year.

The question, raised by Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and for the Treasury, sought specific details about the number and replacement costs of various devices such as laptops, mobile phones, memory sticks, and external hard drives.

James Cartlidge, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, responded with a detailed breakdown, indicating a significant number of devices being either lost or stolen within the Ministry. According to the data presented, “between 9 November 2022 and 9 November 2023, the MoD recorded the loss or theft of 185 laptops, 98 mobile phones, 30 memory sticks, and 70 external hard drives.”

These figures are particularly concerning given the potential security risks associated with such losses in a department as critical as Defence.

Cartlidge further noted that the MoD’s recording system does not differentiate between devices lost and those stolen. Moreover, he pointed out that “The costs for replacing items is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.”

A comparison between the 2021 and 2022-2023 data from the Ministry of Defence reveals a worrying trend. In 2021, the MoD reported the loss or theft of 311 devices, including 71 computers, 147 laptops, and 93 USBs. By contrast, the 2022-2023 period saw an increase to 383 lost or stolen items, with 185 laptops, 98 mobile phones, 30 memory sticks, and 70 external hard drives.

This significant increase, particularly in the number of lost or stolen laptops, alongside the introduction of new device categories like mobile phones and external hard drives, underscores a growing challenge in securing electronic devices within the MoD.

The Ministry of Defence said:

“All breaches of security are taken very seriously. MOD Policy requires all breaches to be reported regardless of whether there is firm evidence of loss or just an inability to account for some devices. Investigations indicate that many of the losses identified are in fact accounting errors highlighted by security mustering processes.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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28 days ago

What has happened to the days of Permanent and Temporary loan systems? Surely with the modern day computerised accounting system’s that could easily make people directly accountable for items. Security is obviously too lax at the moment. But then I did retire from the services in the 1980’s when things were better.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
26 days ago
Reply to  MickyB

People still sign for their computers. Does not stop them losing them.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
41 minutes ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Managed to get stuck outside h.m.s nelson a few weeks ago no panic I just asked for somebody to give me a boost and I was in! Security is not a word that is taken so highly as it should be one day sometime we will be given the wake up for failing when someone jumps over the wall into the naval base and puts a big bomb on the side of a carrier.

Mark F
Mark F
26 days ago

I suspect phones are lost, but probably a lot of the laptops have been lost in the system, as someone moves from one branch to another.
As a contractor, I was issued one by SDA, then moved jobs to DE&S. Kept the laptop, but admin to transfer it from one trading entity to another took about 4 months.

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
46 minutes ago

How come the taxpayer is funding so many gadgets? It looks like everyone who works inside the big machine gets regardless of the actual work that they do