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DWP still sending out passwords and discs together

Government data not secure? Shurely some mistake?

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The Department for Work and Pensions is still sending out discs containing confidential data together with passwords.

This most basic of security failings is no better than Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs sending out the entire UK child benefit database on unecrypted discs.

The moronic action was uncovered by the blog Dizzy Thinks, which received an internal email warning staff at DWP to pull their socks up.

It seems staff were sending discs of sensitive information and then sending the password separately. Well done chaps, that is almost a secure procedure. Not as good as not sending out discs at all, but a fantastic improvement on recent government incompetence.

Clearly, this almost effective security measure could not last for long.

Staff receiving the data and needing to forward it on - itself a security failing - were neatly bundling password and package and sending them out together.

Genius.

The email, with more patience than we could muster, said:

I have been advised of instances where password protected data has been sent out with the password being sent separately as detailed in Security Notice 02/07. However, once the data and the separate password are received, staff are then forwarding the data and password on together, this defeats the purpose of the security measure entirely. Could I ask you to remind staff of the heightened security surrounding data transfer and ensure that data and passwords are sent separately.

A DWP spokeswoman sent us the following statement:

We take the security of individuals' data extremely seriously. We have carried out a major review of procedures around the transfer of data to ensure the security of customer information. We expect all managers to monitor the application of our security controls and ensure that the correct action is taken in all cases.

She could not tell us whether any individual was disciplined for the failure, because an investigation into the leak lapse is underway. ®

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