London commuters lose three devices an hour

Security and communications company ViaSat UK has found that London transport passengers lost three devices an hour on average last year – and that was only those devices that were handed in to lost property.

After filing a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the Transport for London (TfL), the security firm revealed that a total of 25,000 devices were handed in across the firm's rail, taxi and bus networks last year, the equivalent of Londoners losing at least three devices an hour.

Mobile phones, perhaps unsurprisingly, were by far the most common lost device, with the majority lost on London buses (12,091 devices), ahead of trains (7,065) and black cabs (2,135 devices).

Bulkier devices - like laptops and tablets - were often lost elsewhere. Laptops most often went missing on the rail network (accounting for 352 out of 755 lost devices) while tablets were most misplaced in taxis (294 out of 672 were found in black cabs).

TfL reported that 1,449 USB devices were handed in 2013 – a concern given the sensitive data on these and the big fines handed out for data loss. As just one example, Greater Manchester Police Force was fined £120,000 in 2012 for losing an unencrypted memory stick with the details of more than 1,000 people under investigation for serious drugs crimes.

“We need to remember that this is just those devices found by or handed in to TfL: the actual number lost across the capital is likely far greater,” said Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat UK, in a statement.

“Even so, the scale of devices lost on public transport shows that, while technology has become ubiquitous, caution has not grown in equal measure. The potential for fraud is huge when personal data from the average mobile can be used to access bank accounts, credit cards, imitate someone's identity or even blackmail them. For business devices, there is also the risk of exposing the organisation to financial penalties for failing to safeguard data, as well as damage to the organisation's reputation.

He added: “If a device is lost, then there is a whole world of data that may have already been captured and used by criminals.”