back to article Fragrant tech thief stalks Whitehall

Civil servants at the Department for Communities and Local Government are living in fear of a sweet smelling mobile technology thief who carries a ladies' purse. That is the inescapable conclusion after a minister in the department detailed the terrifying catalogue of thefts within the department in a commons answer. Pete …


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  1. Daniel Wilkie

    Wait what?

    How are all their laptops a grand a pop? I recently purchased 6 (so no governemnt purchasing power) decently specced laptops for our managers for £600 a piece, and everyone elses are around the £400 mark...

    And £20 for a USB stick??

    1. James 139

      I bet you

      werent spending public money though.

      Perhaps they spent a grand because they could, and bought high spec models, for no apparent reason?

      Its why the public sector is in such shit now, and panicking like crazy.

      And 20quid for a USB stick is fine, this will buy you a high speed 8GB model or maybe a 4GB encrypted one.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, but..

      Those are consumer grade, not business grade laptops. A well-configured Dell E4310* will come in easily around €1200, assuming you dropped office and the ePort dock.

      * Yeah I said Dell.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Business grade...

        That will be for looking at Excel spreadsheets then. Need an ultra fast processor and all the trimmings for that, obviously.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Daniel Wilkie

      Laptops are provided by an outsourced IT company (Steria) so they'll get tucked up on price to make sure that money is made on the contract. USB sticks in central government can only be used if they are encrypted (as another of our outsourcing chums managed to lose one which contained sensitive data a while back) so they tend to be on the expensive side rather than staff being able to use the sort that you get free with a packet of cornflakes.

  2. Code Monkey

    Classified data

    My arse "none of the stolen devices contained classified data".

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      "Classified" just means the Gubberment don't want you to see it

      It doesn't include "Personal" or "Private" or all of the other kinds of data that you and I would prefer not to be in the hands of miscreants.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Badoom, tish...

    "Sadly, O'Neill does not detail exactly what kind of aftershave was purloined, meaning public watchdogs have no scent to follow. ®"

    Does the (R) at the end mean you've, "reserved" or trademarked this joke?

    1. jonathanb Silver badge


      The (R) at the end means it was written by The Register. Look at the end of every article on here, with the possible exception of some of the ones written by third parties

      1. Marvin the Martian

        What, Jonathan?

        You mean everything I find with an (R) is written or fabricated by The Register? Inconceivable!

  4. JohnG

    Alternative to expenses?

    The rise in "loss or theft" seems to coincide with changes to the expenses gravy train. I'm sure that's pure coincidence.

  5. Steve X

    and the owners?

    How many of the pratts who got stuff nicked have been disciplined for leaving government property lying around where it can be half-inched?

    Let me guess. None. So much for looking after *our* tax money

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No scent, no feeling...

    No, it's not funny and it's not clever.

  7. a cynic writes...

    Of course there was no "classified data"...

    How much "classified date" do you think the Department of Communities & Local Government actually has?

    I'm sure there was sensitive data on the machines - contracts, names & addresses - loads of that. But classified? Who in their right mind would let the department in charge of local government near anything vaguely secret?

  8. Robert Maughan

    Is Required

    None of the devices contained Classified Information because it has been called Protectively Marked Material for years. Unless these were newly delivered or freshly wiped you can bet there was PMM on all of them.

  9. Richard 81
    Paris Hilton

    My little grey cells.

    It all points to one culprit...

    Who had access when the last government was in power and now, holding a grudge against the new government, might need to seek a source of extra money?

    Who is known for their love of perfume and handbags?

    Who could it possibly be, but...

    Peter Mandelson!

    (Joke joke joke, please don't sue me, joke)

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: My little grey cells.

      Wow! A gay joke!

      1. D@v3

        his book says he's not gay

        he is however, the self proclaimed lord of darkness.

        (haven't read it, heard it on Radio4, so it must be true)

      2. Richard 81
        Paris Hilton

        I know, good isn't it.

        I possess a comic genius only the legendary Bernard Manning, or perhaps Jim Davidson, could top.

  10. Timo

    Stolen? Really?

    Oh boy, you work for the government, and your phone turns up missing. What, oh what, can you do?

    (a) tell the truth that you got drunk last night and lost it, and then you're out of pocket to replace it

    (b) call out the national guard and claim that SOMEONE STOLE MY PHONE, and while everyone is distracted chasing around, you go score the latest model and either charge it to insurance or to your work.

    Yeah. I'd be surprised if anyone chose option (a). Actually I am a little surprised that more stuff was not "stolen"!

    1. JimC

      Stolen - very probably

      Grief mate: have you ever come across an Office of any size that stuff doesn't occassionally walk from? There are cleaners, there are contractors, there's that guy/girl on the desk across the way who's desperate to pay off a big credit card bill... Unless everyone without exception is body searched on leaving the office then of course things go missing...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Maybe, but...

      "stolen" involves police reports (to get a crime number), along with the possibility that it might be investigated (especially if the same person has multiple incidents of things going awol).

      Now consider the risk to an MP's reputation should the police be seen to be investigating them on suspicion of fraud.

      I suspect the bulk of the "stolen" items are first incidents, whereas the "lost" items are subsequent offences, so the rozzers don't get involved.

      And I'm sure there's some lawyer somewhere in westminster making money out of "advising" their clients as to which method to claim when something has gone awol.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So much for internal security

    I'm guessing at least a few of these happened *inside* government buildings

    With all those card controlled doors.

    Could it be IDN, an *inside* job?

    Oh wait all those Nigerian cleaners with fake visas got caught.

    1. Ned Leprosy Silver badge

      Re: So much for internal security

      "Oh wait all those Nigerian cleaners with fake visas got caught."

      I'm too knackered to work out whether or not that was a serious comment, but virtually every office I've worked in has had its resident kleptomaniac. The cleaners are often the first to be blamed, but in every occurrence, thefts have tended to occur well before their shifts started. Even when there are keycard-controlled booths or turnstiles people will still try the "someone must've just wandered in off the street" because they don't want to accept that one of their colleagues is a tealeaf.

      1. Anonymous John

        "someone must've just wandered in off the street"

        It can happen. I know of one case when some of a batch of computers being delivered to an office building went missing.

        The deliverymen thought that the "someone" was office staff. The office staff thought he was one of the deliverymen. It was only when the CCTV recording was checked and one man couldn't be identified., that the truth dawned.

  12. disgruntled yank

    Purse and aftershave?

    Should've thought that a handbag was much more a gentleman's accessory on the Continent. Has the EU corrupted English manners that much?

  13. Havin_it
    Dead Vulture


    Is this a subtle hint as to your unsubstantiable suspicions as to the culprit's identity, El Reg? This adjective used to be under the sole ownership of a certain MP/minister/lord/convict's long-suffering wife, I recall. I'd have thought her Palace of Westminster hall-pass was a bit out of date by now, but perhaps I'm wrong ... aren't hubby's novels paying so well lately?

    Icon: not directed at your organ, just the closest available to "showing my age with that one" icon...

    1. Mr Grumblefish

      Nah, it wasn't "the Lady of the Lies"

      It was a black man.

      On a horse.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Robert Maughan

    Protectively Marked Material isnt a classification in its own right, its just the framework.

    shame so many El'Reg posters don not apply the engineering concpet of "Measure Twice, Cut Once" to thier thoughts before posting...

    1. Mark Eccleston

      Measure twice, cut once

      Do you mean:

      shame so many El Reg posters do not apply the engineering concept of "Measure Twice, Cut Once" to their thoughts before posting...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big office

    As others point out, in any big office there's always stuff going 'missing'. At a big publishers where I've been working recently I was told of a time when one of the cleaners brought in a relative to help with some extra cleaning. This chap was caught leaving the building with a bin liner in which he'd hidden a couple of laptops at the bottom. The security guard, bless him, became suspicious at the the way the chap was carrying what was supposed to be a bag of rubbish....

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