Missing computers spark council probe

Officials at North Lanarkshire Council HQ investigated after computers went missing.
Officials at North Lanarkshire Council HQ investigated after computers went missing.

Council staff have been ordered to tighten up procedures after hundreds of computers went missing.

Concerns were raised when many devices could not be accounted for despite North Lanarkshire Council employing a company to to keep track of its desktop, tablet and laptop assets.

An investigation concluded many had been dumped and replaced, but 146 remained unaccounted for, prompting fears that sensitive information could end up in the wrong hands. The council says the risk of unauthorised access is “low”, but steps are being taken to ensure such a situation doesn’t arise again.

A report to the council’s audit and governance panel revealed concerns about missing computers were first raised three years ago.

Council departments said devices had been disposed of during a computer upgrade, but there was no record of this and Motherwell-based LAMH, which recycles old council computers, had no evidence that they had been passed on.

Brian Cook, the council’s head of revenue and e-Government solutions, said: “The overwhelming majority of the devices - 90% in fact - were outdated desktop PCs, more than seven years old, well past their usefulness and of minimal financial value.

“The issue is more to do with record-keeping than physical loss and, a number of machines have been located since the report went to committee.

“In terms of data security, it is extremely unlikely the devices could be used to access sensitive data. The council has multi-layered security and encryption in place and sensitive data is held on servers, not local devices.”

However, Mr Cook did admit in his report that information contained within a computer could be recovered if it was re-connected to the council network.

Councillor Gary O’Rorke, a former audit and governance panel chairman, said: “I wrote to the chief executive about this earlier this year and I’m happy to see it’s being dealt with in the appropriate manner.”