News that the Ministry of Defence lost a laptop containing personal details of over 600,000 people, including national insurance numbers and bank details, has brought back to mind (thanks to a SpyBlog posting) a Parliamentary question I asked back in 2005:
Q. To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many laptop computers have been used by (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials in his Department in each year since 1995; how many have been (i) lost and (ii) stolen in that period; what the cost was of the use of laptops in that period; and if he will make a statement.
A. The total number of laptops in use in MOD is not centrally recorded since purchase is delegated to individual business units. The approximate number currently in use (covering laptops purchased in the last four years and held by both MOD civilians and Service personnel) is estimated to be in the order of 46,000 at an overall cost of £69 million.
75 laptop computers belonging to the Ministry of Defence (including the armed forces) are recorded as having been lost and 590 as having been stolen since 1995.
The Ministry of Defence is alert to the vulnerabilities of laptops and security policy and procedures are continually being reviewed and revised to introduce measures to reduce the numbers of laptops stolen or lost, and to mitigate the impact when losses
So – that makes 665 laptops lost or stolen in 1995-2005, or more than one a week on average. I wonder quite what Adam Ingram (the minister who answered the question) really meant by that last sentence – because surely one thing to mitigate the impact when losses occur is not to have personal details of 600,000 people on a laptop in the first place?