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UK data breach incidents on the rise

Security measures compromised by human dimwittery

Seven in ten UK organisations experienced a data breach incident over the last year, up from 60 per cent in the previous year.

The third edition of an annual survey by the Ponemon Institute, sponsored by PGP, also found that 12 per cent of 615 public and private sector organisations probed were hit by five data loss incidents over the previous year. Less than half of these breaches (43 per cent) were disclosed publicly, while disclosure of the remainder was neither a legal or regulatory requirement.

The public sector (reporting an average of 4.48 breaches per organisation) and financial services firms (3.11 incidents per year) were worst affected by data security problems. By contrast, none of the entertainment, media or defence firms polled reported any problems.

One third of firms unaffected by data loss incident had introduced an enterprise-wide encryption policy, something PGP argues is needed to tackle data loss problems posed by lost laptops and stolen smart phones.

The study found that the majority (57 per cent) of UK organisations are using some form of encryption technology, most frequently file and database server encryption or Virtual Private Networks. Around a third (34 per cent) of current UK corporate spending in encryption is focused on key management, the survey further reports.

A separate recent study by the Ponemon Institute estimates that data breaches cost around £60 per compromised record. However, since the estimation of financial losses arising from data security breaches is a notoriously inexact science, it would be wise to treat this figure with caution.

The growth in the number of data breaches is happening at the same time as awareness of the importance of protecting sensitive data is also on the rise, with 61 per cent describing data protection as either "important" or "very important" in wider risk management efforts. The EU Privacy Directive was cited as the most important regulation in the area, followed by the credit card industry's PCI DSS requirements and the UK Data Protection Directive. ®

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