The mobile phone and laptop of Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox were stolen this morning after his London flat was burgled.
According to Reuters, the break-in meant Fox, a Somerset North prospective parliamentary candidate, had to cancel an early morning media briefing where he had been due to launch the opposition party's manifesto for the armed forces.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Officers are currently in attendance there, it will be investigated by the burglary squad at Southwark.” It was confirmed that there had been no arrests.
Tory sources told BBC News that briefing documents were not stolen but were unable to say what was on the laptop.
Chris McIntosh, CEO of hardware encryption expert Stonewood, said: “For Liam Fox's sake, I hope that this laptop was encrypted. Laptops will always be stolen, the important thing is making sure that the data on them can't be accessed and abused.
“If this laptop was encrypted, then Liam Fox has nothing to worry about. However if not, we could soon see the contents being leaked to the media and even worse repercussions. The public will not be impressed if they see that the Conservatives aren't taking adequate care of their own data and this could damage their confidence in the party's ability to protect government data should they get into office.
“Indeed, the timing of this on the day of a defence manifesto launch and the debate on foreign policy, both of which must cover national and data security, makes matters worse. Therefore, this simple burglary and stolen laptop has the potential to seriously jeopardise the Conservatives' election hopes.”
Jamie Cowper, European marketing director at data encryption firm PGP Corporation, claimed this incident serves as a timely reminder to everyone of the importance of data protection.
He said: “Whilst we fully expect that the shadow defence secretary has taken the appropriate security precautions to safeguard any election secrets that may be stored on his laptop, this incident highlights to the rest of us that we need to take adequate steps to protect confidential personal and business information in case it falls into the wrong hands. As Liam Fox's case shows, laptops are particularly vulnerable to theft or loss but that doesn't necessarily mean that the data held on them needs to be put at risk.”
Dave Everitt, general manager EMEA at Absolute Software, said: “It will come as a surprise to laptop owners that a third of all laptop thefts occur at victims' homes. Unfortunately for Liam Fox, he is the latest high profile person to fall foul of this statistic. Whilst we try hard to keep an eye on our laptops on the move and understand the risks on public transport, it's when they're stationary that laptops are most at risk.
“It might sound like Mission Impossible, but victims of laptop theft would do well to ensure their laptops can be tracked and retrieved if they're stolen. With an increasing amount of personal information now being stored on devices, only the ability to remotely locate and delete sensitive data will ensure total security. Mr Fox would undoubtedly agree that it's not the £400 it would cost to replace a laptop, but the data held on it that can cost the individual a lot more.”