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Government data loss to peak in 2009

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30 million personal records lost already, but more are predicted

2009 will see a peak in government data loss owing to lax security and slashed budgets – according to a warning from Kensington.

Kensington estimates that up to 95 per cent of MPs’ laptops are vulnerable to theft or loss, as a recent offer of 150 free laptop locks to MPs yielded only eight acceptances. This is in spite of the fact that over the last twelve months, nearly 30 million personal records were lost in the public sector(1).

A leaked letter from the UK’s Home Office warned that incidents like laptop theft were likely to rise as a result of the economic downturn. The letter also revealed that falling tax revenues mean policing budgets will be slashed, so the resources available to pursue crimes will be diminished.

This means that data in the public sector, which has proven extremely vulnerable to loss and theft, is set to become even more so if the Home Office’s predictions are true.

The Information Commissioner, a senior public servant responsible for shaping policy surrounding public data, has proposed to make it a criminal offence to carelessly release or lose personal data. But the hard line needs to be supported by tangible action, according to third-party experts.

“The problem will not go away – if anything, it will only get worse as people understand the increasing value of data. A visible first line of defence is required in order to guarantee the safety of public information,” said George Foot Vice President Kensington Europe.

“Despite ever more sophisticated methods of hacking information, the easiest way to steal data is to physically remove it,” he added. “The Government must practise what it preaches, by protecting the data entrusted to it by an ever more sceptical public.”

With the US already taking serious steps to protect public data, Kensington anticipates that the European Parliament’s Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustix, will support the UK’s move, making it essential for organisations everywhere in Europe to ensure all possible steps are taken to protect data from loss or theft.

(1)   According to various press sources, including Silicon.com, nearly 30 million personal records were lost by a variety of public sector bodies in the year ending September 30, 2008: http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39295167,00.htm

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