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Culture of insecurity blamed for HMRC data loss

Official reports lambast UK.gov over data breaches

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A culture of insecurity rather than mistakes by any single official has been blamed for the HMRC data loss debacle, an official inquiry is expected to report on Wednesday.

The Poynter report will highlight poor security practices at the government agency leading up to the loss of discs contained child benefit information on 25 million people in October last year.

Chancellor Alistair Darling told Parliament in November that a "junior official" had posted the encrypted discs to the National Audit Office, contrary to "strict security rules". However the report by management consultant Keiran Poynter is expected to highlight much wider problems at the agency.

Ahead of the publication of the report, net security firm Symantec said that it had implications for private business as well as government departments. According to Symantec, one in four data breaches in the UK occurs within Government departments. It reckons data breaches cost up to £47 per compromised record.

"More than 95 per cent of data loss is inadvertent or accidental. The recommendations in the Poynter Report have been given to avoid this scale of loss, accidental or otherwise, happening again. All organisations which hold customer data need to be very clear with its policies and have a very strict data loss prevention programme in place to manage and control the amount of data it holds,” said Richard Archdeacon, director of Symantec Global Security.

The Poynter report is one of four reports on government data security due out on Wednesday. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is due to report its take on the on the HMRC breach.

A separate Cabinet Office report will examine the wider issue of how government departments handle data. The report is expected to endorse moves to allow the Information Commissioner to make spot checks on government departments and agencies, the BBC reports.

Finally a Ministry of Defence investigation is expected to blame slack security practices for the loss of a laptop containing details on 600,000 potential armed forces recruits, AP adds.

The Telegraph has published a handy timeline on events surrounding the HMRC data loss scandal here.

We'll have more on the Cabinet Office report later today.®

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