Cyber fears as Highways Agency lose 125 electronic devices

London, 11th April – Highways England, the public body in charge of maintaining and improving motorways and major roads in England, has misplaced over one hundred key devices, including hard drives, laptops and iron key storage devices, according to official figures

A Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, analysed by niche litigation practice Griffin Law, found that over the last five years Highways England, who oversee the smart motorways policy, has lost a total of 125 electronic devices, a number of which contained confidential data.

It found that, during the reporting period, eight laptops were lost or stolen, as well as a desktop computer, 69 mobile phones, 12 tablets, five iron key storage devices and four hard drives.

In 2021 alone, 17 phones were lost with another five being reported as stolen. A total of 31 different devices throughout the whole of 2021 year were misplaced, each potentially containing confidential information.

2018 was the biggest year for device loss, with 20 phones, eight laptops misplaced, and six other devices lost, for a grand total of 34 missing devices.

Phones topped the lost devices list, with 69 being lost and 11 being stolen across the five years. In 2021, 22 of these devices were listed as lost or stolen.

The news comes amidst electric vehicle charging points in the UK being hacked last week to show unsavoury content on their screens.

Achi Lewis, Area Vice President EMEA, Absolute Software, commented:  

“Now we are living in a largely hybrid working environment, managing and keeping track of a workforce and their devices has become more difficult than ever. Now rather than having all an organisation’s devices in one place, they are scattered around, increasing the attack surface for organisations, such as Highways England, and therefore requiring greater security measures. 

“A resilient zero trust policy should be deployed to prevent malicious actors from breaching a lost or stolen device, or endpoint. This can be combined with solutions such as secure access controls, allowing the organisation to remotely shut off a misplaced device, protecting both the data on the device itself and the rest of the network, and stopping further costly data loss.” 

Donal Blaney, Founder of Griffin Law, added:

“The pen pushers that gave us ‘smart motorways’ that can’t keep drivers safe are now proving they can’t keep our data safe either.”

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About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan