UK Ministry of Defence admits massive data losses

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The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has admitted that it has lot 658 laptops and 121 USB data drives since 2004, much more than was previously admitted to.

The loss was found by Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather after a parliamentary question was tabled. The size of the losses is at odds with reports from the ministry and will raise questions over what other departments have been losing.

"It seems that this government simply cannot be trusted with keeping sensitive information safe," said Teather.

"It is frightening to think that secret MoD information can be lost or stolen. This shows a shocking degree of incompetence across the entire government."

So far only 32 laptops have been recovered.

“If an employee loses a laptop containing sensitive information it’s likely they’ll be quick to inform employers to their mistake,” said Matthew Brown, vice president of product at Workshare.

“When it comes to USB pens the story is different. Although many employees do not alert their organisation after losing a drive the level of risk is just the same as a missing laptop.”

The MOD has come under fire already this year for poor data security and admitted that it has lost 26 memory sticks containing classified information since January this year. It is not known how many of the lost items were encrypted.

Nick Lowe, Check Point’s regional director for Northern Europe said: “We don’t know if any of these devices or laptops were encrypted, but recent experience suggests that the majority were not.

“Even as recently as November 2007, only 48 percent of public and private sector companies had ANY data encryption software in use, according to a survey we conducted.

“All we can hope is these incidents will make organisations understand the real risks of data loss -- and that it can and does happen to anyone. Data has got to be protected, for all our sakes.”
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