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Insurance giant rapped on knuckles over DPA breach

Amicus in doghouse over stolen, unencrypted laptop

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Insurance firm Amicus Legal has been put on notice for breaches of the Data Protection Act, after it failed to protect sensitive customer data on a laptop that was subsequently stolen.

The laptop, privately owned by a contracted consultant, contained an estimated 100,000 unencrypted customer records. The sensitive data held on the machine in plain text included details of legal advice.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has obtained a legal undertaking from Amicus Legal that it will ensure proper protection of sensitive data is maintained in future. For example, Amicus has promised to use encryption on portable computers and USB sticks.

Breaches to the agreement could result in enforcement action by the ICO. In a statement, the data privacy watchdog said the case illustrated that firms are responsible for the security practices of their contractors.

Sally-Anne Poole, head of enforcement & investigations at the ICO, said: "This case was serious because it involved the data of 100,000 customers, including sensitive information relating to legal advice. This breach illustrates that even though a contractor lost the data, it is the data controller (Amicus Legal Ltd) which is responsible for the security of the information. It is vital that personal information is handled properly and in compliance with the Data Protection Act."

"Since November 2007, 161 data security breaches have been reported to the ICO by the private sector. We urge all CEOs and their senior management teams to take personal responsibility for treating data protection as a corporate governance issue affecting the whole organisation. They have to make sure that safeguarding the personal information of customers and staff is embedded in their organisational culture." ®

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