Survey finds public sector ahead in data security struggle

Organisations in the public sector are better prepared to face the risks to data security than those operating in the private sector. This is according to the findings of a survey carried out on behalf of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

This level of preparedness is said to exist as a result of improved employee awareness and training to ensure that data protection in the public sector is always evolving and being augmented.

The ICO concluded that there has been a general increase in awareness over the past year, although this is still heavily weighted in favour of the public sector, with private sector firms struggling to keep pace.

The ICO used SMSR to conduct the study and it discovered that a little less than 50 per cent of private sector firms were willing to state that secure storage of private data should be mandatory without being asked, while this is true of 60 per cent of public sector groups.

The ICO’s Christopher Graham explained that raising awareness and enforcing basic responsibilities was the cornerstone of data protection within organisations, regardless of their backgrounds. He said that this is the only way in which customers and clients can be assured that they are using a secure, trustworthy service.

Mr Graham pointed out that the ICO would be forced to respond with punitive action if an organisation was unable to live up to these ideals. He also urged managers to take into account the potential for reputational damage in the event of a data loss or theft incident, caused by a lack of training and awareness.

Data security expert Chris McIntosh said that he found it appalling to think that the terms of the Data Protection Act are still being ignored by many organisations within the private sector.

Mr McIntosh asserted that the average laptop used within businesses contains half a million pounds worth of data which, in the wrong hands, could do damage to clients and the business itself. He believes that the ICO can help increase awareness by using its powers and handing out significant fines for the worst offenders.

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