More than 180,000 computing and communication devices were reported lost or stolen to UK police over a 12-month period, putting huge amounts of data at risk.
Freedom of Information (FoI) figures released by ViaSat found that between 1 March 2013 and 28 February 2014, a whopping 183,523 devices were reported lost or stolen to UK police forces from Cornwall to Cumbria.
Devices ranging from laptops, smartphones, tablets and USB drives were among those items included in the data.
The biggest number reported by a single force was Greater Manchester, with 21,811 thefts involving computer equipment, while West Yorkshire was second with 17,120. Notably the British Transport Police reported 8,686 thefts or lost devices, underlining the perils of losing devices while travelling.
While the figures are high, the true numbers are likely to be higher still as the data gathered by ViaSat does not include information from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The firm said it requested the data from the Met, but the force did not reply. Four other forces did not respond.
Nevertheless, the number of lost or stolen phones is high. With many of these likely to contain important information, the risks to businesses is huge, explained CEO of ViaSat, Chris McIntosh.
“We must trust that only a fraction of those thefts involved sensitive data being put at risk. Similarly, if less than one percent of the devices stolen in burglaries or personal thefts contained any sensitive information, that is still a huge amount of potentially sensitive data in the wrong hands," he said.
"Combined with the threat of sensitive personal information being on a stolen device, it’s clear that the need to protect personal information must be understood by everyone, from heads of security to housewives and husbands.”
Not only do lost devices pose a security risk to firms and individuals, but the Information Commissioner's Office can also leverage sizeable fines to organisations whose devices go missing.
Last year Glasgow City Council was fined £150,000 after it lost 74 unencrypted laptops, including one containing more than 6,000 people's bank records.
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