I dare say that this sort of thing has always gone on. If it were not hard drives then it would be paper files or such like. It just so happened that someone lost a laptop some time ago, on what was probably a slow news day and the press jumped on the storey.
Government agencies just like their civilian equivalents have always lost things. That does not justify its happening, but we are all human and loose things from time to time. It has always been so and probably always will.
Hi, I used to work in the Department for Work and Pensions DWP. Outsourcing the IT department and then removing onsite IT personnel led to complete chaos for days at a time. Losing DATA from hardware should be impossible due to hardware encryption which would be simple for a competent IT company to implement but going for lowest bidder means always hiring incompetants.