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A lost cause

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Lost

Quite literally. Apparently, staff in Parliament have lost almost 100 devices over the course of the last two years. Laptops and tablets containing confidential data have been “misplaced” on trains, busses, taxis, hotels and not unsurprisingly, the pub.

Parliamentary staffers have lost a total of 96 laptops, tablet computers and other gadgets in the last two calendar years, according to official figures.

The data, which was obtained by Parliament Street think tank under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, examined device losses by Parliamentary staffers over the calendar years of 2020 and 2019.

In total, 41 laptops were reported missing and 36 tablets. The remaining missing items included 11 phones and six skype headsets.

In addition, 16 devices went missing on estate and 13 reported missing off estate. One tablet was stolen in a hotel and one laptop was stolen on the London Underground across the two years.

In total over the period 19 devices were reported as stolen and 47 were reported as lost. Of the total devices reported missing only 17 were located and found.

Now, I’ve worked with ‘work devices’ for as long as I can remember, I’ve taken them all over the place, and not once have I let them out of my sight, and if I have, they’ve been secured and hidden in an office or hotel room.

What is it that makes Parliamentary staff so utterly careless? To me, this just shows a general lack of respect, not only for the devices they have been loaned, but those the data on them pertains to.

I know if I simply lost my work laptop, there would be repercussions, perhaps there just aren’t any down in Westminster? Or perhaps money is just no object and the confidential data they’ve let loose into the world is of no concern to them.

Edward Blake, area vice president EMEA at Absolute Software commented, “Devices used to carry out parliamentary duties will contain a goldmine of confidential data that could be lethal if it fell into the hands of cyber criminals.

“It’s critical that parliamentary authorities have the necessary systems in place to track missing devices, enabling them to freeze and wipe lost or stolen laptops, protecting public data from fraudsters.”

“If a lost laptop ends up in the wrong hands, the organisation in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated.

“Sophisticated cyber criminals can steal the data contained on these devices, access more businesses files, or intercept emails between colleagues, all with relative ease once a device has been compromised.”

“Therefore, it is more critical than ever to have a permanent digital connection to every endpoint, as well as the ability to lock, freeze or wipe the device if it is at risk of being compromised.”

Don’t get me wrong, this ability to freeze and wipe a device remotely is an excellent idea and will of course help should a device fall into nefarious hands. That said, managing to lose 96 devices containing parliamentary data over the space of two years is beyond irresponsible, so perhaps in this case, prevention is better than cure.

Or, better yet, much like children, until they can prove they can look after things, maybe it’s time to take the toys away?

This editorial originally appeared in the Data Centre Review Newsletter June 25, 2021. To ensure you receive these editorials direct to your inbox, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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