The BBC has confirmed that 146 laptops and 65 mobile phones have been lost by its staff over the last two years.
A Freedom of Information request made by Absolute Software found that the losses total £241,019 when including 17 lost BlackBerry devices. One member of staff was investigated over the theft of a laptop but nobody has been disciplined.
Dave Everitt, general manager of Absolute Software EMEA, said: “It is shocking that any organisation could lose so much equipment, but the BBC is just one of many we've seen recently, proving it's all too common. In this case, however, this technology is paid for by the licence payer and employees should be far more careful about how they handle it.
“It's arguable whether BBC laptops are in fact ‘appropriately' protected - the sheer number of devices that were lost or stolen and not recovered would suggest the opposite. The BBC would do well to ensure they are using the technology that's already installed in most laptops to track such stolen devices, as well as smartphones and recover them, or at least render them impossible for others to use.”
The BBC responded by saying that 15 laptops, three mobiles and one BlackBerry were recovered and added that once a theft, suspected theft or loss has been reported ‘data security breach procedures' are invoked as necessary.
The corporation also stated that BBC issued mobile devices, such as laptops and BlackBerry's, are appropriately protected and most small mobile devices have a remote wipe facility. It also said that it was not policy to charge members of staff for equipment loss.
A BBC spokeswoman told BBC News: “The BBC takes theft very seriously and has implemented a number of measures to reduce the level of crime. The portability of laptops and phones means that in any large organisation there is an inevitable risk of theft.
“The BBC investigation service is involved whenever an allegation of theft is made, and where appropriate the police are informed and prosecutions brought where we can.”
Paul Vlissidis, technical director at NCC Group, said: “The total cost of the lost equipment is clearly shocking, particularly when public money has been used to pay for it. However, security issues should also be considered when any equipment of this nature is lost or stolen.
“Although the BBC has put ‘appropriate protection' in place to deal with such situations, data protection also relies on the user to ensure that their encryption password is not easily accessible and goes beyond hard disk encryption; it needs to consider the laptop in use.
“Many laptops are left in standby mode, which effectively renders the hard disk encryption useless if the machine can be attacked whilst powered up. Many firms don't have adequate security measures to protect the laptop when they connect to these networks.”