Missing laptops, some get light-finger treatment

The topic of missing laptops has raised its head again with the Federal opposition reporting some 500 computers have been loss or stolen over the last financial year.

According to 2001 Senate estimates on IT equipment conducted by committee member Shadow Minister for Public Administration and Home Affairs John Faulkner, 541 laptop computers, some containing classified Cabinet and commercial information, have been lost or reported stolen.

While this figure is down on last year's number, the departments of Health, Defence, Attorney General and the Australian Taxation Office have refused to answer questions on the matter, raising concerns about the number of laptops and subsequent classified information lost in these departments.

Senator Kate Lundy, Shadow Minister for Information Technology, said because figures from these departments are missing, the Opposition would be searching again at estimates hearings for the information.

She said the loss of classified material might far outweigh the financial impact of the missing equipment.

Computerworld reported in November 2001 that more than $3 million worth of laptops had been lost or stolen at Telstra in the preceding 18 months. A survey of missing computer equipment prepared by Shadow Minister for Public Administration and Home Affairs John Faulkner showed Telstra had lost 426 laptop computers and another 126 had been reported as stolen between January 1 1999 and July 1 2000. That survey also detailed losses at the Department of Defence (54 lost and 73 stolen), Family and Community Services (34 missing), Industry, Science and Resources (12 lost and 51 stolen), ATO (31 missing) and Air Services Australia (29 missing). The report said the total replacement cost for missing laptops across all Federal departments would be about $5 million.

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Kelly Mills

Computerworld
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