Revenue pledges data security...by 2011
As fast as speeding custard
HMRC's latest report reveals the department hopes to have fully implemented the recomendations of the Poynter review into data security by June 2011.
Kieran Poynter of PWC was appointed to review procedures after the Revenue transferred 25 million people's child benefit records onto two unencrypted discs and popped them in the post. When they failed to arrive they were sent on another two occasions.
According to the autumn report HMRC is "to make best endeavours to implement the Poynter recomendations by 25 June 2011".
If you think this might be a rather leisurely response to the loss of details on almost every UK family in 2007, the report tries to reassure you.
The department said it had already made good progress in removing the ability to transfer data to USB sticks and CDs unless "there is a compelling business case".
It has introduced restrictions on bulk transfers of data, issued a data security pocket rule book to all staff and run security workshops with annual refresher courses. Every directorate now has a "Data Guardian".
The Poynter review, published in June 2008, pointed to a general cultural failure at the Revenue to take data security seriously - the Revenue initially tried to blame a junior official for the massive breach.
The full report is available from here (pdf)
Meanwhile of course other departments continue to lose information with alarming regularity. But more worrying is the government's continued determination to build ever more databases and grant ever more people access to the information they contain, in direct opposition to the most basic principles of data security. ®
Impossible without standards...
... and HMRC can't even meet basic open standards, e.g. RFC2822 for e-mail.
Just try entering a perfectly legal e-mail address containing an ampersand (&) in the local part into one of their systems, and see what happens... you can happily swap e-mails with HMRC using that address (isn't the Internet kind?), but (Microsoft) GovTalk bans them. They're frightened that their Windows systems will fall over with fright at the thought of entering such heinous data into HMRC records as your e-mail address... :-(
data security... by 2011
And porcine aviation by 2012!
Why are they so inept?
I can't imagine that anyone with enough brain power to put on their own underwear would think that a 4 year cycle for a security review is just ridiculous.