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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Mystery of stolen Whitehall laptops
MI6 building
Security service laptops have been lost and stolen
More than 35 laptop computers have been lost or stolen from government ministers and officials in the past three years.

The toll of missing laptops since May 1997 has been revealed in written parliamentary replies.

One would like to assume that government departments brief civil servants, officials and ministers about looking after these things

Keith Simpson MP
The Department of Trade and Industry has been the worst hit, with nine laptops stolen and another reported missing.

Recent reports about the theft of machines belonging to senior government officials have heightened security concerns in Whitehall about the storage of sensitive information on vulnerable computers.

A senior naval officer from the Ministry of Defence recently had his laptop stolen containing files with detailed information about a fighter plane. It was later recovered by a national newspaper and handed back.

Further probe

The security services have also been embarrassed by cases in which intelligence personnel have had their laptops lost or stolen.

One MI6 officer left a pc in a taxi after a night's drinking in a tapas bar.

An M15 official had his laptop stolen after putting it down at a train station while he bought a ticket.

Laptop computer
Several dozen laptops have been stolen
Tory MP Keith Simpson, who tabled the parliamentary questions about the losses, is concerned at the findings.

He said: "One would like to assume that government departments brief civil servants, officials and ministers about looking after these things but obviously it's not working.

"I am not going to stop here, I'm going to continue on this and try to find out more."

He has asked departments to confirm whether any of the stolen machines contained sensitive information.

The final toll of stolen equipment may be higher still, as some ministries are yet to respond to Mr Simpson's enquiry.

So far only one ministry, the Solicitor General's department, has been able to confirm that no laptops have gone astray since May 1997.

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28 Mar 00 | UK
Second spy loses laptop
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