More than 100 government-issued mobile phones had all their data wiped last year after their users entered the wrong PIN.
In 2020, the Treasury’s IT desk had to reset 117 of its 2,100 mobile phones – including the device belonging to the department’s boss. Texts sent from the phones involved are likely to have been lost.
These lost texts include the correspondence between the Treasury’s permanent secretary Tom Scholar and former prime minister David Cameron regarding the Greensill lobbying scandal, where Mr Cameron had contacted Treasury officials to ask them to allow the company Greensill Capital to be included in one of the government’s coronavirus loan schemes.
MPs had called for the texts to be revealed saying it was “in the public interest,” but Mr Scholar has maintained that he is unable to disclose the content of his messages to Mr Cameron, due to his phone having been wiped.
Mr Scholar told a hearing of the Treasury select committee:
“At the beginning of June last year, (the phone) had to be reset because, under government security as applies to mobile phones, if the password is incorrectly entered more than a few times, the phone is locked, and the only way to unlock it is to reset it. Resetting it means that the data on it is lost. I knew that when it happened last June, and I am certainly not the only person to whom this has happened.”
Users of government phones are required to change their passwords frequently, however the Treasury has not confirmed how often these changes should take place.
Labour has called for a thorough investigation into the matter.