Security fears over IT equipment missing from Houses of Parliament

National Crime Agency reveals ’growing threat’ of cyber crime

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There are serious security concerns after it emerged that IT equipment including iPads, mobile phones and laptops have gone missing while in the possession of MPs and Lords this year. A list revealed today shows there are 27 items of parliamentary-supplied equipment that were lost or stolen while they were assigned to members in the House of Commons.  

Cyber security experts say the loss of these devices, which potentially contain a lot of sensitive data, could give a “window of opportunity” to hostile foreign states and organised crime gangs. 

Only two of the devices have been marked as found, and it is not known what has happened in the other 25 cases.

Six items went missing in the Lords, including two laptops, two iPads and a desktop. Two of them were marked as lost and the others as lost/stolen.

The information was provided to Metro.co.uk in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. 

Marijus Briedis, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, said: “Captains of industry and senior politicians have long been frequent targets of state-sponsored and commercial espionage in the past.  

“The more valuable the data on your phones and hard drives, the higher the level of encryption you will need to protect it. Many in government will have expensive software solutions on their devices designed to defeat the sort of spyware only governments can afford, such as an Israeli system known as Pegasus, but lose the device altogether and there’s a window of opportunity where even that won’t necessarily save you.” 

In the Commons, nine of the losses were of iPads with cellular data.

In one of the incidents, a laptop and iPad cellular were listed as having gone missing while in the possession of an MP. 

The names of the parliamentarians who reported the losses were withheld under a data protection exemption stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act.

The data for the year to November has been released amid concern about cyber-security among government ministers, especially in light of threats from hostile states.

Oliver Pinson-Roxburgh, CEO of cyber-security firm Defense.com, said: “Parliament clearly needs to rethink its approach to security.

“If bad actors have physical possession, there is always the possibility that they can break a device’s security and gain access to important documents, platforms, and information.

“It is essential that those in positions of power and responsibility that have access to vast amounts of sensitive data, take their obligations of keeping that data secure seriously.”

“This is especially true of government officials with access to the public’s personal data.”

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In October, Liz Truss’s phone was reported to have been hacked by Russian agents while she was Foreign Secretary.

The breach was said to have taken place during the summer Conservative leadership campaign but to have been suppressed from public disclosure until afterward. 

The Freedom of Information Act responses say the items may have been stolen from anywhere on the parliamentary estate or elsewhere and it is the responsibility of individuals to report incidents to the Parliamentary Digital Service.

A UK parliament spokesperson said: “We provide advice to users – including members of both Houses – to make them aware of the risks and how to manage their equipment safety, however we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security controls, policies or incidents.”
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