Technology worth over £240,000 vanishes

BBC laptops and mobile devices worth more than £240,000 – the equivalent of 1,656 TV licences – were lost or stolen in the last two years, show figures published today.

Corporation staff reported 146 laptops, 65 mobile phones and 17 BlackBerrys missing between April 2008 and March this year.

Only 19 were recovered, leaving a final bill of 217,569 for the missing equipment, a Freedom of Information request by computer security company Absolute Software revealed.

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One BBC employee was investigated over the theft of a laptop, but the corporation could not confirm whether any staff were disciplined for the losses.

The Freedom of Information response, including figures for commercial subsidiaries like BBC Worldwide, shows the missing laptops were valued at 219,000, the mobiles 12,913 and the BlackBerrys 9,106.

This comes to a total of 241,019, or the equivalent of 1,656 colour TV licences costing 145.50 each, although 23,450- worth of the equipment was recovered.

Dave Everitt, Absolute Software's European general manager, 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."

The BBC said its mobile devices, like laptops and BlackBerrys, were "appropriately protected" and that it invoked "data security breach procedures" if necessary once equipment was reported missing.

But Mr Everitt said: "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."

A recent survey found 11 Government departments reported the loss of 518 laptops, 131 BlackBerrys or iPhones, 104 mobile devices and 932 electronic storage devices worth an estimated 781,453 in the last two years.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "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."