New data has revealed that UK parliament staff misplaced tech devices nearly 100 times over the last two years, raising questions over national security.
Data acquired by think tank Parliament Street through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that laptops and mobile phones are among several types of the 96 total stolen or misplaced tech devices.
In total, 41 laptops were lost, and 36 tablets were reported. The remaining missing items included 11 phones and six Skype headsets.
According to the request, any items lost or stolen could have been “from anywhere on the Parliamentary Estate,” including the House of Lords and House of Commons.
Of the 54 cases of lost or stolen items recorded in 2019, only 10 items were recovered, whilst of the 44 misplaced in 2020, only eight were recovered. Of the 96 reported items, the vast majority were lost or misplaced by staffers, while 20 were stolen.
Items were lost or stolen in a variety of places, including buses, trains, by mail and in some cases even the pub; all locations that raise concerns about highly sensitive government data falling into the hands of malicious actors.
The UK has been seeing a rise in cybersecurity threats over the last few years, driven by the increased use of technology and the advent of Covid-19. Malicious actors are becoming much more sophisticated in how they carry out their attacks, and a mobile phone containing sensitive government data would be a perfect target.
Commenting on the data, Dave Martin, head of business strategy at Secured Communications said: “The big issue is not about people losing or getting their devices stolen but how easy cyber-criminals may be able to access the confidential information held on them.
“It is vital that organisations use platforms and technology which can be immediately disabled in the event of theft or loss. This is a risk if businesses or organisations are using platforms that do not allow for the ability to use remote wiping on immediate request.”
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In January last year, a similar FOI request into lost and stolen electronic devices to the Scottish Government revealed a similar trend. Data revealed that in 2019, 47 mobile phones and 12 laptops were lost by staff.
Official figures released by the UK government in May also showed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reported 72 laptops and 234 phones lost or stolen between 2019 and 2020, a total of 306.
Thomas Chappelow, Principal Security Consultant, Risk Advisory at SureCloud, added: “UK parliament MPs and staff may have lost devices over the years, but the important thing to keep in mind is that a well-constructed information and cybersecurity programme should render those devices worthless to any bad actor, whether that’s an opportunist criminal or a nation-state.
“If those devices are appropriately encrypted and managed, the loss of those devices is unlikely to cause problems from a security perspective.”