The Ministry Of Defence Has Lost 63 Computers And 48 USB Sticks Since January 2017

By James O Malley on at

When it comes to security, modern technology can be be bother a blessing and a curse. And despite everything that drones and modern communications equipment can do
to help us on the battlefield, we imagine the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will be cursing quite hard as it has emerged that since January 2017, the MOD has somehow managed to lose 63 computers - 3 desktops and 60 laptops, as well as 48 USB storage devices. Yikes.

The revelations come via a Freedom of Information request, which also reveals that since August last year, the MOD has also lost one actual weapon - a Glock 17 pistol, which it believes was stolen in Barbados, as well as a small number of munitions.

That ferocious whirring you can hear is the sound of publicity-hungry Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson trying to work out how best to use this information to get the Daily Mail to flatteringly write about him, as part of the world's most obvious Conservative Party leadership campaign.

"The MOD treats information security as a top priority", explains the Ministry in the letter that revealed the numbers. "All incidents of equipment going missing or stolen are thoroughly investigated and may result in disciplinary action". Attempting to explain the losses, it says that "The MOD promotes a culture where security is the responsibility of all staff and personnel are required to report all security incidents. This can result in figures appearing higher than comparable organisations."

It isn't clear from the letter what was on the laptops or USBs nor if they contained classified information. But whatever the case, this certainly feels a little worrying, given how many secrets can conceivably be packed on modern storage devices, and as demonstrated by the likes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

But on the other hand, it is also hard to benchmark exactly how bad this is, given that the MOD employs over 56,000 civilians, let alone military personnel. And in any sufficiently large group, there will inevitably be hardware that goes missing. In fact, it could even be good news given that previously it has been reported that between May 2015 and December 2016, the MOD somehow lost 759 laptops, and had a further 32 stolen. So arguably, this appears to be a particularly spectacular reduction. So, umm, good work... MOD... sort of?