The number of high profile data losses as the result of misplaced portable memory is increasing at an alarming rate. This was demonstrated last month when a memory stick containing sensitive information about police operations was stolen from a Police Officer's home in Oldham. Although faced with public outrage Oldham police have handled the situation admirably, by honestly admitting guilt and promising to look at procedures within the department.
Even more recently a medical student who copied the private data of 87 patients onto a memory stick and then lost it, has landed the University Hospital of South Manchester in trouble with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Cyber threats like these are on the increase and, in particular, the loss of information stored on portable memory devices is rife. The disappointment for me is that the specialist technology already exists to stop this happening. However, organisations handling crucial data persist in trying to get by with password protected versions of consumer memory devices.
It reminds me of the legend of Icarus flying too close to the sun. Icarus’ father used wax and feathers to create wings - the wrong tools for the job. In the same way, data owners persist in using devices intended for storing photos and Word documents to handle confidential data. Icarus’ Father, aware of the limitations of his chosen materials, told Icarus to stay away from the sun. Similarly, when equipping their staff with the wrong memory devices, organisations give them advice they know will not be followed, “always password protect and keep the device safe”.
Specialist memory devices, that don’t require further password protection, should become the norm for any Government officials handling sensitive data or individuals’ personal information. Cyber threats, as well as people’s safety should be at the core of police concerns and in order to protect businesses and the public, the issue needs to be addressed at regulatory level.
Sales and marketing director at Nexus GB
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