Bank of England Loses 161 Electronic Devices in Data Security Debacle

“If a lost or stolen device ends up in the wrong hands, the Bank of England could be facing consequences far more severe than the cost to replace them."

Questions around data security have arisen with revelations that the Bank of England (BoE) lost 161 electronic devices between September 2018 and August 2021.

The data has been obtained by the London-based think tank Parliament Street through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. A total of 25 devices were lost or stolen in 2021 alone.

This year the BoE was accused of moving too slow, according to experts, who say it needs to get a grip on the financial sector’s plans to outsource customer data storage. As Parliament Street notes, the loss of so many devices raises concerns that banks are not doing enough to keep data secure.

Edward Blake, Area Vice President EMEA, Absolute Software, comments: “With workforces now dispersed due to remote working, the use of personal phones and newly purchased laptops has gone up, and therefore so has the threat posed by hackers.

“If a lost or stolen device ends up in the wrong hands, the BoE could be facing consequences far more severe than the cost to replace them. For example, sophisticated cyber criminals can steal the data contained on these devices, access more businesses’ files, or intercept emails between colleagues, for the purpose of data theft, monetary gain, high-profile scams, or ransomware.

“Preventing this requires a robust system to ensure the latest encryption and security updates are installed to track, freeze and wipe devices in the event of loss or theft, keeping hackers locked out.”

Parliament Street provides a helpful breakdown of the numbers.

In 2018 a total of 70 devices were reported missing or lost and 12 were reported stolen. In 2019, the number decreased, with 46 missing and eight stolen. In 2021, a total of 16 devices were reported lost and nine were stolen.

The highest number of missing devices were mobile phones, with a total of 57 lost or stolen in 2018, 30 lost or stolen in 2019 and 17 in 2021.

Laptops were the next highest devices to go missing. In 2018, 14 laptops were reported missing and six stolen. In 2019, 17 laptops were reported lost and six stolen and in 2021, three laptops went missing and five stolen.

In more positive news this week, HM Treasury and the BoE will launch a consultation next year to assess the case for a UK central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The duo says that a CBDC would be a new form of digital money issued by the BoE and for use by households and businesses for their everyday payments needs. It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them.

Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton is the Editor of eWeek UK. He has 18 years' journalism and writing experience. His career has taken him to China, Japan and the UK - covering tech, fintech and business. Follow on Twitter @TonyFintech.
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