Zurich Insurance apologises to customers for data loss

A major failure in backup security procedures has left the personal details of 51,000 UK citizens at large in the Southern Hemisphere for a period of over 12 months. The Swiss insurance group Zurich experienced the loss when a data tape was being transferred for storage in South Africa in 2008. It has taken a year for the loss to be discovered and the story has spread quickly because of the catastrophic volume of data involved.

On top of the UK customers exposed, over half a million South African clients of the insurance giant had personal details stored on the mislaid data tape. KPMG has been called in to assist in identifying the causal factors behind the loss.

Zurich’s European CEO Annette Court was quick to apologise to the affected customers in the UK and abroad, rightly denouncing the loss as an unacceptable blunder. Court also took the opportunity to reassure customers that Zurich is updating its storage and backup infrastructure in order to provide more effective security in the future. Since no details on this improvement programme have been forthcoming, it is likely that the newly discovered data loss has in fact been the catalyst for a comprehensive data protection upgrade programme within Zurich.

If you are a Zurich customer and are concerned about the security of your own details you can contact the incident team set up to deal with queries regarding the loss and the ongoing investigation. Indeed, you may have already received a letter advising you as to the steps that you can take to combat any threat posed by the exposed personal data.

In the UK the FSA has also been informed of the loss. To date, Zurich is maintaining that although the data loss is significant, there have been no signs that it has found its way into the wrong hands. This is supported by the fact that the interval between the loss and its discovery has been so significant.

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