Feeds

DOH! Housing contractor loses unencrypted stick down the pub

Stick was stuffed with tenants' personals

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

A contractor who lost an unencrypted memory stick with confidential data during a visit down the pub has landed two London housing bodies in trouble with data privacy watchdogs.

The memory stick contained details of over 20,000 tenants of Lewisham Homes and 6,200 tenants of Wandle Housing Association. More seriously, 800 of the exposed Lewisham records contained tenants' bank account details. Fortunately no harm was done because the lost stick was safely found and handed in to the police.

Even so, both housing bodies have been publicly named and shamed over the lapse by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which ordered them to improve their data security practices, in particular by making sure all portable devices used to store personal information are encrypted.

In a statement, Sally-Anne Poole, acting head of enforcement at the ICO, said: "Saving personal information onto an unencrypted memory stick is as risky as taking hard copy papers out of the office. Luckily, the device was handed in, and there is no suggestion that the data was misused. But this incident could so easily have been avoided if the information had been properly protected."

Both housing organisations were held responsible for their contractor's (likely drunken) lapse and will now be subjected to a stricter monitoring regime. The incident represents the latest in a long list of UK public sector organisations failing to protect sensitive information they hold on the public since the high-profile HMRC lost child benefit discs screw-up four years ago.

Mark Fullbrook, UK and Ireland director of identity management firm Cyber-Ark, said many organisations have still failed to learn any lessons from previous data protection screw-ups.

"Using a memory stick to transport sensitive information may be convenient but it's certainly not secure," Fullbrook said. "And whilst in this case the memory stick was returned to its rightful owners, should it have fallen into the wrong hands, the repercussions could have been severe.

"There have been enough warning signs now for organisations to start getting the hint; sensitive information must be afforded the right level of protection. When it comes to securely sharing information, whether between contractors or internal staff, secure file transfer is the only truly effective way to safely and efficiently exchange sensitive information with third parties," he added. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.