'The government loses a laptop every other day." This may sound like an accusation voiced by a character in the fantastical BBC spy-series Spooks, but worryingly it actually refers to real events. Liberal Democrat MP Dr Vincent Cable made the observation in July, in reaction to news that police had charged a man with the theft of at least one laptop from the UK Cabinet Office.
Cable is rightly incensed at the government's poor record of mobile security, citing the possible repercussions if confidential information fell into the wrong hands. Three laptops went missing in July alone, although the man in question was only charged with stealing one. The incident adds to the theft or loss of hundreds of government laptops in recent years.
The Secretary of State for Defence recently confirmed, in a written parliamentary answer, that some 400 laptops have gone missing from government departments in the past two years. If you go back further, things are even more frightening. Another parliamentary question last year put the figure closer to 600 computers having disappeared from the Ministry of Defence in the past five years.
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- Review: Identity Theft (26 August 2003)