Official figures suggest that at least 950 computers have been stolen or lost by the Ministry of Defence in the last three years.

This isn’t all that uncommon, many will remember that the MoD was strongly criticised in a report by Sir Edmund Burton, published in June 2008, for security lapses that led to the theft of a Royal Navy laptop containing records of 600,000 recruits and potential recruits to the armed forces. There have been many similar incidents since then.

Douglas Chapman, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Defence Procurement, recently asked in a written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many (a) desktop, (b) laptop and (c) tablet computers were lost by his Department in the years (i) 2015-16, (ii) 2016-17 and (iii) 2017-18.”

Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, responded:

The Ministry of Defence treats all breaches of security very seriously and requires all breaches to be reported regardless of whether there is firm evidence of loss or just an inability to account for some devices. All incidents are subjected to an initial security risk assessment with further action taken on a proportionate basis.

For financial year 2017-18, the following figures were reported as unaccounted for: – 30 desktop computers, 81 laptop computers and one tablet.

For financial year 2016-17, the following figures were reported as unaccounted for: – 19 desktop computers, 51 laptop computers and five tablets.

For financial year 2015-16, the following figures were reported as unaccounted for: – 694 desktop computers, 64 laptop computers and five tablets.”

Ellwood added:

“It is MOD policy that all laptops, tablet computers and removable media are encrypted to minimise the impact if a loss were to occur.”

There seems to be a cavalier approach to the storage and protection of data. Who knows what damage could be done to the UK if sensistive material gets into the wrong hands? At a time when information security is paramount, it’s vital that far more is done to encrypt sensitive data and staff are held to account, in my opinion.

Information security, clearly, isn’t a major concern for many in Parliament either. Last year, we reported that MPs are widely and routinely breaching data protection and cyber security policies.

6 COMMENTS

  1. nothing new then,laptops used to go missing all the time when i was serving,rmp sib would come in shut the camp do an investigation search every inch of the place until found but most cases they never were found

  2. The mad thing is that although the MOD has moved over to DII not all programs are cleared for use on DII. This means you can end up with a laptop with one diagnostic or utility program on it for a specific piece of kit.
    I once had 5 laptops for 5 different programs because DII would not clear the programs for use on the system . You needed to pay a fee to get approval from DII…and it just so happened that it was cheaper and quicker to buy a dedicated laptop instead.
    These dedicated laptops just ended up sat in a cupboard most of the time doing nothing. So its no wonder some go missing.
    600 + desktops in 2015 sounds like an accounting error not a malicious act…

  3. Point to note, all military laptops cleared for use outside work require the use of a USB dongle and another password, without it, the laptop is just one huge paperweight.

  4. In most cases lost is not so much lost as we’ve got slightly confused as to who’s got the computer cus the asset numbers need auditing.

    If you look at the list it’s mainly desk tops, with a loss of 650 in one years,that would suggest they had a movement of assest that someone forget to log in year. When you are talking about government departments you will be taking about a couple of hundred thousand assets moving around to differing owners and users on a regular basis.

    The two later years had numbers of misplaced or lost assets of around a hundred or less…..if you say 100 thousand assets ( low numbers) thats a o.1% loss rate…. Unless you are some sort of perfect omnipotent being that’s really very good.

    Remember your average laptop will have nothing more than bog standard OFFICIAL sensitive information or personal data on it which will be behind OFFICIAL stands of encryption.

    This is really a non story.

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