A hooded gang tied up and assaulted IT staff as they raided the headquarters of a London council in search of Sun Microsystems computer equipment last week.
The raid, the third in six months against Barking & Dagenham Council's IT department, is the latest in a string of break-ins around the UK targeting Sun equipment.
The incident has prompted the council, which had bought the equipment as part of a major upgrade of its financial systems, to re-think its policy of keeping computer equipment on its own premises.
Three men dressed in hoods and scarves raided the council's civic centre offices in Dagenham at 11pm on Tuesday last week, forcing their way past security guards and into the IT department. The men, in their early 20s, tied up two IT staff and assaulted another two, one of whom required hospital treatment.
The raiders damaged IT equipment, but left empty-handed after searching unsuccessfully for Sun motherboards.
Police believe the gang were searching for the replacements for Sun motherboards originally stolen during a raid in January when thieves escaped with four printed circuit boards worth £60,000 each, from a newly-purchased Sun 6800 machine.
The council had also lost IT equipment worth £42,000 during a raid in September 2001, when a gang systematically stripped council offices in the civic centre of desktop PCs.
The council said that the IT staff involved in last week's raid were shaken up after the incident. "The council is very concerned for its employees, especially those attacked. There were four, one of whom required hospital treatment," a council spokesperson said.
The council had already removed all Sun equipment from its premises, and is considering outsourcing the management of its equipment to a third party to protect its staff.
The raids have delayed a major council IT project transferring its financial systems from Windows NT to Sun Solaris, although development work will continue on smaller Sun machines.
A police spokesman at Dagenham said officers were looking into the possibility that there may be links between this raid and other recent raids on Sun equipment.
The University of Durham was targeted by thieves who made off with printed circuit boards from a Sun supercomputer being used to model the origins of the universe, during a raid over Christmas.
Financial organisations in the City of London, including Deutsche Bank, have also had Sun equipment stolen during raids by organised gangs.
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