BBC loses £240k worth of mobile devices

Data security

The BBC has lost 240,000 worth of laptops and mobile phones in the last two years, a security firm has revealed.

In that time, 146 laptops were either lost or stolen, along with 65 mobile phones and 17 BlackBerry devices, Absolute Software discovered, after filing a Freedom of Information request.

One member of staff was investigated over a laptop theft but no related punishments have been handed out.

"It is shocking that any organisation could lose so much equipment, but the BBC is just one of many we've seen recently, proving it's all too common," said Dave Everitt, general manager for Absolute Software in the EMEA region.

"In this case, however, this technology is paid for by the licence payer and employees should be far more careful about how they handle it."

Of the lost devices, the BBC said it had recovered 15 laptops, three mobiles and a single Blackberry.

The broadcaster also claimed its mobile technologies are adequately protected and most of its small mobile devices feature a remote wipe capability.

"The BBC takes theft very seriously and has implemented a number of measures to reduce the level of crime," a BBC spokesperson said in a statement sent to IT PRO.

"The portability of laptops and phones means that in any large organisation there is an inevitable risk of theft."

Everitt questioned whether the devices were in fact "appropriately" protected, given the number of devices that were not recovered.

"The BBC would do well to ensure they are using the technology that's already installed in most laptops to track such stolen devices as well as smartphones and recover them, or at least render them impossible, for others to use," he added.

Encryption is one method the BBC uses to protect its systems, but it could not tell IT PRO any more about the organisation's security procedures.

An Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) spokesperson said any body processing personal data needs to have the right safeguards in place.

"The BBC has reported data breaches to the ICO in the past. Should we receive evidence to suggest there have been further significant losses of unencrypted personal information that have not been reported to us, we will not hesitate to take this up with the BBC to establish the facts and identify what action, if any, is necessary," the spokesperson added.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.