Companies are warned to keep data safer

January 2, 2012

COMPANIES in the North East are not learning important lessons about data security, despite the threat of fines.

The idea that regional firms are playing Russian roulette with their reputations has been floated by business adviser Paul Holborow of Newcastle accountants RMT, who says even fines of up to £500,000 have not prompted all businesses to strengthen their processes.

The RMT director has urged businesses to put an information security plan in place, which would involve staff training, investing in technology, the appointment of an IT security officer, and carrying out regular risk assessments.

Holborow said: “I think it’s largely a case of them thinking it won’t happen to them, particularly as many of the fines issued so far involve large corporations and local government councils. But the list of fines and undertakings extends to include small businesses too: a barrister, a cosmetics retailer, a secondary school, a GP surgery, a university and two playgroups.

“It proves that virtually anyone can face legal action if they don’t ensure that personal and confidential data is secure.”

On the local government front, Big Brother Watch recently released a report which said it had documented more than 1,000 incidents of data loss by 132 local authorities over the last three years, including the loss of at least 244 laptops, 98 memory sticks and 93 mobile devices.

It said only 55 of the 1,035 incidents were reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Holborow stressed it is not just public authorities that should look at how they keep data safe.

He said: “There are still many instances of small businesses losing unencrypted memory sticks and laptops, which is really baffling when you consider there are many inexpensive and easy to use solutions available.

“But businesses must take care of hard-copy documents containing personal information too. A barrister was reprimanded for leaving an unlocked suitcase of court papers on a train.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office is coming down very hard on transgressors so it is vital local businesses take steps to ensure they are fully compliant as far as security measures are concerned.

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