Dry cleaners shed light on data loss

A survey of dry cleaners in the UK has found that thousands of people are leaving valuable USB memory sticks in their clothes when they send them off to be cleaned, which can potentially be the catalyst for serious instances of data loss.

In 2009 a total of more than 4500 USB memory sticks were recovered from the pockets of clothes by dry cleaners around the country, making it one of the most common ways in which those suffering from a moment of absent mindedness are likely to misplace their portable storage devices.

100 dry cleaners were questioned in the study, which encouragingly noted a 50 per cent drop in the number of left devices between 2008 and 2009. This might be construed as a positive turn of events, but experts are not so optimistic.

It is believed that rather than using USB memory sticks, many more people are now relying on their smartphones and netbook computers as their main form of portable storage. This is according to Credant Technologies, the authors of the report, suggesting that shifting trends in data storage and not an improvement in portable data protection are responsible for the decrease in USB memory stick loss.

The same firm has commissioned previous studies proving that forgetfulness is the biggest cause of data loss, with 25,000 portable computers, mobiles and USB drives left in taxis alone each year.

Falling costs and increasing capacities are making portable devices more attractive to those looking to backup data, but for business users the loss of a USB memory stick containing sensitive information could come with a stiff penalty. The Information Commissioner’s Office has the power to fine the individual responsible for the loss, as well as the firm that employs them, which could see personal penalties of nearly 500 incurred if a serious breach is deemed to have been brought about by the loss of a portable storage device.

Experts consider the only solution to the problem of data loss through misplaced portable devices to be the rigorous regulation of internal policies, limiting the type and quantity of information that can be extracted from a business’ network by a single user.

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