Government officials have lost hundreds of electronic devices

(Image credit: / LeQuangNhut)

UK government officials have lost hundreds of smart devices in the past 18 months, putting the nation's government at risk of hacking.

New figures released under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation to the Parliament Street think tank found that smartphones, tablets and laptops have all gone missing over the past year and a half.

This could mean that government-issued devices containing sensitive data may have fallen into criminal hands, putting top-secret work at risk.

Lost devices

The data, covering the period from 2018 until now, showed that 89 electronic items went missing in the first year, with this figure nearly doubling to 163 in 2019.

Despite the nationwide lockdowns and remote working boom that followed, a further 64 items have already been lost this year.

The AWOL items have gone missing from a number of central government agencies and offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council, the Equalities HQ and the offices of the leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The halls of government appear to be a hotbed of device mislaying, with several high-profile incidents occuring in recent years. In 2007, the Government said it had lost the data of 25 million people after computer discs vanished. 

And in 2017, a USB stick with details of the Queen’s security and Heathrow's protections was found by a member of the public after being mislaid.

“With an increasingly remote workforce due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s absolutely essential that government departments take the necessary steps to ensure all devices are correctly secured," noted Stav Pischits, CEO of Cynance, a division of Transputec.

"Even though these devices were encrypted, hackers can find new ways to break through systems to access confidential files, which could be lethal in thew wrong hands. So, ensuring robust encryption and cyber security measures at all times is essential.”

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.