Government admits data losses far higher than claimed

The Government has admitted that it has had 658 laptops stolen over the last four years - one every two days, and twice the previously claimed figure.

The news emerged after parliamentary questions over a recent laptop theft in Liverpool, involving "sensitive information."

The revised figure was admitted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which blamed "anomalies in the reporting process" for the error. The Government had previously suggested that only 347 laptops had been stolen in that time.

Over 35,000 laptops are owned by the MoD, 13,000 of which have full-disk encryption. Those without this security measure are not allowed to leave MoD sites without a waiver from the relevant department's senior information risk owner, following the introduction of stronger security measures in January.

As well as laptops, the Government also has a poor track record of keeping hold of external storage devices.

The MoD admitted last week that 87 data storage devices have been lost since 2004, all of which contained classified data. Five were even classed as containing "secret" information and one at the even higher "confidential" classification.

Reports last week also suggested that a BlackBerry was lost by a senior Government aide, after he fell victim to a "honey-pot" trap by Chinese security personnel.

The Government has since denied these allegations, claiming that the situation never happened and that although a Blackberry was lost, there was "no compromise to security".