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UK.gov coughed over £2 MEELLION in data breach fines in the past year

Overall fines have TRIPLED from the previous year

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The total number of self-reported* data breaches in the UK increased from 730 between March 2011 and February 2012 to 1,150 in a similar period in the year up to early March 2013. The lion's share of the fines paid out originated from the public sector.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Information Commissioner’s Office also discovered that the number of fines imposed on organisations for poor data security shot up from nine penalties totalling £791,000 in 2011-2012 to 20 penalties adding up to £2,610,000 in 2012-2013.

The proportion of monetary penalties imposed on the private sector has grown: from one of nine penalties in 2011-2012 to four of 20 in 2012-2013, resulting in fines totalling £520,000 out of a grand total of £2,610,000 - which means the public sector coughed up over £2m. Stats obtained via the FOI request show breaches reported to the ICO grow from 730 in 2011-2012 to 1,150 in 2012-2013.

High fines were levied against organisations such as Sony, which received a fine of £250,000 for the 2011 breach of the PlayStation Network. But the most-penalised organisations are local councils (accounting for eight penalties) and the NHS (accounting for six). NHS trusts alone were hit by fines of £945,000 while local council were stung for £845,000.

The majority of penalties were for simple human error: especially the act of sending or sharing information inappropriately.

ViaSat UK, the security and communications specialist that filed the FOI request, said that while the increase in reported data breaches may mean more beaches are happening, it also suggests that more breaches are actually being spotted and reported; a positive development.

"Those of us concerned about the state of data protection in the UK can take some comfort from these figures," said Chris McIntosh, chief exec of ViaSat UK. "First is the fact that more data breaches are being reported. While this may mean an increase in the number of breaches, it also suggests that such breaches are being more readily identified and reported, rather than left unreported where the issues causing them will fester, unresolved.

"Second, it is clear that the ICO is standing by its promise to use both the carrot and the stick when enforcing the Data Protection Act. Not only has the number of monetary penalties increased year-on-year, but they have grown in size and been implemented across both the public and private sectors." ®

IT lawyer Dai Davis of Percy Crow Davis & Co added that many tens of thousand of breaches are unreported each year.

"At present the only breaches that must be reported are some by telecommunications companies (BT, Vodafone etc.)," Davis explained, adding that the ICO figures obtained by ViaSat probably refer to truly voluntary disclosures.

Leaknote

*Self-reported data breaches cover breaches of data security that organisations are compelled to report to the ICO.

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