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Technology / Cybersecurity

How many IT-related thefts were there in 2013?

More than 160,000 thefts involved computer and communication equipment in the last year, according to information obtained by security specialist ViaSat.

Freedom of information requests sent to British police forces revealed 162,932 items had been reported stolen between March 2013 and February of this year, comprising 17% of all thefts.

Tech kit was taken in 28% of domestic burglaries, and 69% of thefts from a person.

Crimes recorded included theft from homes, offices and vehicles, as well as shoplifting, and has led to concerns that confidential data may be at risk.

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Chris McIntosh, chief executive of ViaSat UK, said: "At the very least, we can see that there were far more thefts of computing and other equipment from organisations than were reported to the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office]."

The ICO is an independent body dedicated to "promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals". A total of 1,274 data breaches were discovered and reported by companies to the body within a similar timeframe as the report.

"We must trust that only a fraction of those thefts involved sensitive data being put at risk," McIntosh added. "If less than 1% of the devices stolen in burglaries or personal thefts contained any sensitive information, that is still a huge amount of potentially sensitive data in the wrong hands."

In addition to fines, the ICO has the power to issue legal enforcement notices, secure acceptance of responsibility and prosecute unlawful conduct.

An ICO spokesman said: "Data breaches are assessed on a case-by-case basis and we issue fines accordingly."

The data, based on reports from 31 regional police forces, also revealed that Greater Manchester recorded the greatest number of thefts involving computer equipment, with 21,000 incidents among a population of more than 2.5 million.

The authority with the least computer thefts was that of Dyfed-Powys, with only 603 incidents in a region home to half a million people.

Not included in the statistics were crimes such as handling goods, which are not counted as theft by some forces, plus serious crimes involving theft. Though 46 police forces were contacted for information, only 31 provided comparable data.
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