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The number of London councils reporting lost or stolen mobile computing devices has more than doubled over the past three financial years, according to new Freedom of Information (FOI) data.

Think tank Parliament Street compiled responses from 23 out of the 31 local borough councils that operate across the UK capital.

It found that a total of 1293 devices were lost or stolen over the three financial years from 2016, including laptops, mobile phones and tablets. The figure jumped from 304 in 2016-17 to 635 in 2018-19, a 109% increase.

Phones went missing most often, accounting for 951 lost or stolen devices over the period. The figure rose 122%, from 215 in 2016-17 to 478 in 2018-19.

Laptop losses also almost doubled over the period, from 64 to 124, while tablet losses increased slightly from 26 to 33.

Lambeth was most affected by missing devices, recording 281 losses, 84% of which were mobile phones. Next came Richmond and Wandsworth (123) and Brent (170). Richmond and Wandsworth, which reported together, saw a 666% increase in lost and stolen devices, while the figure stood at 74% in Brent.

Absolute Software EMEA VP, Andy Harcup, warned that the rise of flexible working combined with opportunistic thieves is increasing the risk of confidential public sector data going missing.

“If said device ends up in the wrong hands, these councils and the constituents they serve could be facing severe consequences, including a major data breach with citizen details finding their way onto the dark web,” he added.

“It’s time for all organizations to wake up to the very real risks posed by stolen devices in terms of data security. Every single council should have robust end-point security measures in place to ensure that devices reported missing can be accessed, tracked, deleted and frozen appropriately.”

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