The MoD has admitted to mislaying IT equipment including more than 180 laptops
In the last 18 months the Ministry of Defence has admitted to losing more than 280 computers in total, and a host of other tech goods.
The MoD reportedly lost 188 laptops during this 18 month period.
The Daily Mail quoted Defence Secretary Andrew Robathan, who revealed in a parliamentary written answer that 21 laptops had been taken in a single incident in Germany. It seems that a further 20 laptops were reported lost in a separate incident but subsequently turned up.
The laptop loss figures do not include the laptop that was stolen from then shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, who in April 2010 had his laptop stolen, along with his mobile phone and car, after his home in South London was burgled whilst he was asleep upstairs.
However the MoD figures do also reveal that besides the laptops, 99 desktops were mislaid, plus a further 72 hard discs and 73 USB memory sticks. Other items that went walkabout includes 18 mobile phones, 10 BlackBerrys and 194 CDs or DVDs.
And another 135 other items, thought to be USB tokens, radios, 3G cards and cameras, were also mislaid during the period.
The MoD pointed out that equipment losses were inevitable for an organisation of its size. Indeed, back in July 2010 for example, the MoD revealed that it had lost 340 laptops in two years. Prior to that in 2008 it managed to mislaid an entire server.
“The size and complexity of the MOD, more than 250,000 individuals operating all round the world from permanent bases and in theatre, and frequent movement of kit between locations in support of operations mean it is almost inevitable that equipment will go missing,” said the MoD in a blog post.
“However, we take any loss and theft of communications and information systems and associated media storage devices very seriously and we have robust procedures in place to mitigate against such occurrences,” it added. “Our challenge remains to reduce the number of such incidents and we work hard to minimise the impact of the loss of information by ensuring that devices are encrypted.”
“Where encryption is not possible we ensure that additional security measures are in place,” it added, without specifying what those other measures were.
The equipment losses at the MoD come amid a number of recent public gaffes which resulted in the release of potentially sensitive information.
In April this year for example the MoD briefly exposed secret information about nuclear submarines on its website, thanks to an embarrassing error in blacking out parts of a document posted online.
And MoD staff have previously been found to have leaked secrets on Facebook.
Meanwhile the MoD find itself at the centre of ongoing cyber warfare actions. Last year it had to suspend the Royal Navy website after it was hacked into.
In the summer Dr Fox warned that Britain is under constant attack from hackers, and that last year 1,000 potentially serious offensives were blocked.
More recently the MoD has warned that hacking by foreign governments and corporations is regularly putting British companies out of business. In an effort to gear itself to face these threats, in June it created a new joint force command unit, that integrated the MoD’s cyber warfare and military intelligence units.