The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has admitted losing 280 computers in the last 18 months but claimed that in almost all cases encryption would have been in place to ensure data security.
In a blog post, the Ministry reacted to defence secretary Andrew Robathan’s revelation in a parliamentary written answer announcing some alarming recent losses, including that of 188 laptops, 99 desktop PCs, 72 hard disk drives and 73 USB sticks.
“The size and complexity of the MOD, more than 250,000 individuals operating all round the world from permanent bases and in theatre, and frequent movement of kit between locations in support of operations mean it is almost inevitable that equipment will go missing,” an MOD statement read.
The Ministry said that although 20 laptops had been lost in a single incident, all had subsequently been recovered.
“Our challenge remains to reduce the number of such incidents and we work hard to minimise the impact of the loss of information by ensuring that devices are encrypted.”
The use of encryption by default is just as well given the scale of data going missing on other devices. The MOD repotedly also lost 150 back-up tapes, 18 mobile phones, 10 BlackBerry smartphones, and 135 other items such as USB tokens, 3G data cards, radios, and digital cameras.
The number can be counted as a modest improvement on the rate of device loss in previous years. In 2010, the MOD admitted it had lost 340 laptops in the previous two years in response to a freedom of information request by a PR agency acting on behalf of a security client.
This wouldn’t have included the laptop belonging to shadow defence secretary (later defence secretary), Liam Fox, stolen from his house in a burglary in April 2010.
The rate of loss admitted by the MOD also compares well to smaller public sector organisations such as the BBC, which in 2010 said it had lost 146 machines in only two years.