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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 06:22 GMT
MoD 'loses 600 laptops'
Graphic, BBC
Nearly 600 laptop computers have been stolen or lost from the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD), it has emerged.

Figures obtained by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow revealed that a total of 1,354 government-owned computers had gone missing over the past five years.

From the MoD, 594 laptops have gone missing; a further 419 have disappeared from the Department for Work and Pensions; and 115 from the Department for International Development.

Some computers were detailed as stolen while others had simply been "lost", Mr Burstow said.

Mr Burstow's figures also revealed that hackers had illegally accessed the MoD's computer system 27 times since 1999, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Government laptops lost since 1996
MoD: 594
Work and Pensions: 419
International Development: 115
DTI: 79
Lord Chancellor's Dept: 77
Cabinet Office: 43
Treasury: 14
Northern Ireland Office: 3
A spokesman for the MoD said: "We are not prepared to discuss the security arrangements of theft of laptops."

He added: "Once a laptop is stolen or goes missing, the civilian police and the appropriate MoD authorities are informed immediately."

He also pointed out that "not all laptops contain classified information".

Mr Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, collated the figures after tabling a series of written Parliamentary questions. He said the figures could be even greater, because they had been volunteered by departments.

"It shows that some departments seem to be particularly vulnerable to this sort of theft taking place," Mr Burstow said.

He said the figures revealed a number of the perpetrators were departmental staff.

Reported hacking incidents
MoD: 27
Lord Chancellor's Dept: 19
Foreign Office: 5
Northern Ireland Office: 4
Home Office: 3
"These departments have potentially sensitive intelligence information, and I think more could be done to prevent this happening.

"We want departments to look at the procedures they have to make sure that staff are more careful with the equipment they are borrowing and using."

A total of 79 laptops were taken from the Department of Trade and Industry, 77 from the Lord Chancellor's Department, 43 from the Cabinet Office, 14 from the Treasury and three from the Northern Ireland Office.

As well as the MoD reporting 27 hacking events, 19 such events were also reported at the Lord Chancellor's Department, five at the Foreign Office, three at the Home Office, and four at the Northern Ireland Office. All these events took place in the last three years.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow
Paul Burstow: "Some perpetrators are staff"
The security of government laptops hit the headlines in 2000 when transport minister John Spellar, then armed forces minister, had his stolen from his home.

A few months previously, an MI6 officer left his laptop in a taxi after a night's drinking in a tapas bar in Vauxhall, south London.

Another was snatched when an MI5 officer put it down to buy a ticket at a station. That one was later handed back to the Ministry of Defence after being recovered by a newspaper.

See also:

22 May 00 | UK
Stolen MoD laptop recovered
13 Apr 00 | UK
MoD appeal over stolen guns
28 Mar 00 | UK
Second spy loses laptop
26 May 00 | UK Politics
Mystery of stolen Whitehall laptops
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