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Forgetful staff leave businesses exposed

Corporate security is being put at risk by staff leaving their mobile phones, USB sticks, and laptop computers in London taxis.

Over the past six months, passengers travelling in London left 54,874 mobile phones, 4,718 handheld computers, 3,179 laptops and 923 USB sticks in the back of London cabs.

A survey by Pointsec shows that more laptops and mobile phones and handheld devices are lost in London cabs each year, than in the taxis of Washington, Berlin and Sydney.

The losses are putting corporate data at risk, says Peter Larsson, chief executive of Pointsec, who points out that a single mobile phone can hold 1Gbyte of memory, equivalent to a million e-mails.

“The survey shows that no-one is infallible,” he said. “With the new breed of phones being able to store 1Gbytes and even some storing 4Gbytes, users need to be aware of the amount of data they are carrying around in their hands.”

In one case, a London cabbie found a laptop belonging to a member of the United Nations, while a taxi driver in Helskinki found secret military papers.

Despite the risks, passengers who leave devices in cabs are more likely to be reunited with their equipment than those that lose it elsewhere, with on average 75% of mobile phones and 78% of laptops finding their way back to their owners.

Passengers in London are more likely to be reunited with their lost phones by honest cabbies, than those in other world capitals, with a return rate of 96% compared to 32% in San Francisco.

The survey reports on other unusual items left in cabs, including large numbers of false teeth and artificial limbs.

UK cab drivers reported finding a telescope, a machine gun and £100,000 worth of diamonds.

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