Data Protection – how to avoid a catastrophe

18 January 2008

The recent news that names, addresses, bank account details, dates of birth and national insurance numbers of 25 million people were lost by HMRC quite understandably caused widespread alarm with the potential harm being described as 'catastrophic'.

The Information Commissioner, whose office was established to protect personal information and take appropriate action where the law is broken, described the scale of the loss as 'unprecedented' and stated that data protection laws have almost certainly been breached. This loss of information serves as a timely reminder to businesses and organisations that they are legally obliged to ensure the safety of personal information relating to individuals.

It’s estimated that at least two thirds of businesses in the UK are affected by information security breaches, whether it’s client data lost in transit, identify theft, phishing, spam, e-mails or viruses. People seem to think these things are simply an annoying part of the electronic world, but technically they are information security breaches and a form of e-crime. An information security breach is more likely to come from an internal source than externally.

Research shows that one in five company employees have misused the internet and each year one in 500 employees will cause or trigger a major incident. Businesses must understand their obligations to comply with the various information security laws, in particular the Data Protection Act.

The consequences of non-compliance with the Data Protection Act and other information security laws can be wide ranging, for example, imprisonment, fines, damage to brand or reputation, loss of business, breach of confidence and/or even a breach of contract. Just because you can’t see it, don’t believe it isn’t happening.

Digita has created an education programme, The Practice Data Protection Checklist, to increase awareness of what information security breaches is and what forms it can take so that individual practices can identify, assess and properly manage relative to their own firm the impact of legal, technological and operational risks arising from information security breaches.

As a general rule firms should spend approximately five to ten per cent of their annual IT budget on security and at the 2008 Annual Conference, 13-14 March, with the official launch of the programme, Digita will show you how.

To find out more about the conference and to book a place go to or call Zoe Bishop on 01395 270 311.

Research: Michelmores Solicitors

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