Cyber fears as nearly 200 devices lost

04 June 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) has seen nearly 200 devices including laptops and mobile phones lost or stolen over the last two years, according to official figures. 

Overseen by secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson, the DfE is responsible for child protection, education, apprenticeships, and wider skills in England has seen remote working surge due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The data, which was obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act inquiry by Parliament Street think tank has revealed the number of lost and stolen gadgets since 2019.

Of the total 196 devices reported missing, mobile phones were the most common, with 145 missing in total since 2019, 22 of which were reported to be Blackberries, which were previously the default standard issue device for government officials. Last April, it was announced that the DfE had launched a free online learning platform to help people pick up digital and cyber skills while in lockdown.

“Amidst the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been huge pressure on government departments to carry on providing crucial public services with staff working remotely,” said Edward Blake, area vice president, Absolute Software UK&I. “However, if one of these lost devices ends up in the wrong hands, the organisation in question could be facing a far more costly predicament than first anticipated.”

The DfE has so far dispatched 1.29 million laptops and tablets as part of a scheme to provide over 1.3 million devices to disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people with devices and connectivity to access remote learning during the 2020/21 academic year. 

A total of 104 phones and 35 laptops were reported as lost or stolen in 2019, while a further 41 phones and 16 laptops went missing in 2020.