Cyber fears as Department for Education loses nearly 200 devices

04 May 2021

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

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.

The Department for Education, which is overseen by Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson is responsible for child protection, education, apprenticeships, and wider skills in England has seen remote working surge due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 Department for Education had launched a free online learning platform to help people pick up digital and cyber skills while in lockdown.

In 2019, 104 mobiles were reported as lost or stolen and in 2020, 41 also went missing. In 2019, 35 laptops were recorded as lost and in 2020, 16 laptops were missing.
In total, the UK's Department for Education 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.

“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. For example, sophisticated cyber criminals can steal the data of young people contained on these devices, access more businesses files, or intercept emails between colleagues, all with relative ease once a device has been compromised.”