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Cybersecurity warnings issued after Highways Agency loses vital hardware

Piles of laptops
(Image credit: Getty)

Highways England, the public body responsible for maintaining motorways and major roads in England, has misplaced 125 electronic devices over the last five years.

The revelation follows a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request and has prompted warnings to be issued by data backup (opens in new tab) and security analysts (opens in new tab) alike over lax cybersecurity practices (opens in new tab)

Following close inspection of official figures by Griffin Law, the agency was found to have lost over one hundred key devices, which included hard drives, laptops and iron key storage devices. All could have potentially contained confidential information.

Crunching the numbers, analysts found that the figures included eight laptops that had been lost or stolen. On top of that, a desktop computer, 69 mobile phones, 12 tablets, five iron key storage devices and four hard drives had also disappeared over the five year period.

Misplaced mobile phones were the main item of hardware to go missing, with 17 lost in 2021 alone and another five being reported as stolen. However, 2018 was the biggest year for device loss, with 20 phones and eight laptops misplaced. A further six other devices were lost, resulting in a total of 34 missing devices.

Related: Best antivirus software (opens in new tab).

Greater security measures needed

Achi Lewis, Area Vice President EMEA, Absolute Software (opens in new tab), 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."

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Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.