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The latest amendment to the Data Protection Act, which came into effect on the 6th of April, means that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is now able to impose a fine of up to £500,000 for organizations which lose data. However, with the recent announcement at the end of May 2010 stating that since November 2007 over 1,000 data breaches had been reported to the ICO, with most breaches due to lost or stolen devices, surely now is the time for businesses take the initiative and avoid the wrath of the ICO.

The best business case in years (and not just for IT)



Whenever change is forced upon an industry it is never going to be welcomed with open arms. So it hasn't surprised me that that the new measures put in place by the ICO have left many organizations frustrated, claiming guidelines are vague and it's just another revenue opportunity for government. And even some IT security journalists I've spoken with echoed this criticism, claiming the ICO guidance doesn't offer the insight needed to understand what criteria the ICO will use when assessing incidents of data loss.

However, I believe that energy and attention are being focused incorrectly. Obviously the fact that the commissioner has the ability to decide the level of fine - depending on the size and financial means of the organization and the severity of the breach - is a major concern. But, how can the government, or for that matter business, look over 1,000 data breaches and not take action.

For any organization to run efficiently - whether it comes to data protection, worker productivity, or staying within budget - it must have a clear picture of how employees are accessing and storing data. With all risk management metrics indicating a breach will occur, the new consequences of a data breach provide the business justification to re-asses the measures they currently have in place and set the correct policies internally. Ignoring the facts or opting for a cheaper IT security option won't work much longer.

The inevitably of human error and the right equation to deal with it

Since the ICO powers were announced, I've spoken with many customers and people within the IT security industry to gauge their feelings. The over-riding response has been that that the threat of fines will result in an unnecessary drain on the already stretched IT security budget. In fact, some feel suckered. Having invested in technologies that now are shown to be not so invincible and others that lack the potential documentation to fend off breach claims. For example, a major concern is just how companies can prove to the ICO that data which has been lost on devices which they perceive to be secure has not, and cannot, be accessed. And this concern highlights the bigger issue that businesses must now implement controls and processes which offer an audit trail in relation to data, so if a data loss does occur, the business can prove the data has not been breached.

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