Staffordshire Police hit by loss of hi-tech devices

Police in Staffordshire have lost dozens of laptops and building access cards in the past year, it emerged today.

Computer keyboard - Credit SXC

Police in Staffordshire have lost dozens of laptops and building access cards in the past year, it emerged today.

The county’s police authority has looked into a number of information security incidents at the force over the past 12 months. Its report reveals that 29 personal digital assistants  – or palmtop computers – were lost by officers.

Six were later recovered. A further 64 access cards were lost, and five more stolen, though 19 were later found. The costs of losing equipment is not yet known.

Officers also lost two Airwave devices, private mobile radios used by emergency service workers, and two mobile phones. There were 11 reports of email systems being misused and two reports of the internet being misused.

Virus alerts on computers were not reported twice and unauthorised software was used on two occasions and unauthorised hardware on one.

Government data watchdog, The Information Commissioner’s Office, said no serious concerns were raised by Staffordshire Police Au-thority. Spokesman Greg Jones said: “In the past financial year we received five data protection complaints involving the authority.”

The force did however volunteer itself for a free audit  by the ICO in July. Good practice was noted in training and in ensuring officers understood force policy.

But, inspectors said there was a “significant risk of potential data leakage” because of a lack of end point control – meaning a computer virus could be allowed to enter the force’s system through the CD or DVD drives.

Former top police office John Mellor, who served for 34 years, said: “Police laptops would surely contain privileged information and there must be a security danger if they were lost.”