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Thursday, 3 January 2008

A Happy New Year (and a more secure one!)

We should all hope that 2008 is going to be a more secure year for our data. It seems that every day brings fresh news that our data has been compromised in one way or another. The chief culprits appear to be government departments which are being forced to own up to data breaches in the past rather than being found out by the Information commissioner.

In addition to lost disks, there are paper records discarded in public dustbins and lost laptops by the boat-load. Security which was trumpeted by ministers as being paramount seems to have been very low on their priority list in their own domains. It is also lamentable that there has been a deliberate policy of hiding the facts from those people most at risk.

We must be vigilant as these data breaches might not affect us until some date in the future. Criminals will wait until the furore has died down before using the data illegally.

Let us make sure that 2008 is a year of data security, here is a recap of precautions:

  • Always shred confidential documents or documents having identifiable data;

  • Never give passwords or log on information to email enquiries, telephone callers or visitors;

  • Be wary of emails directing you to a bank or other secure site which ask for personal information;

  • Do be aware that information put into social sites such as Facebook may be visible to people other than the intended audience. Dates of birth, names and addresses, telephone numbers and details of family can be used to steal identities.

  • Never dispose of old computers until the hard drives have been removed or destroyed; remember deleting or re-formatting the disk does not actually delete the data;

  • Never leave confidential documents on desks overnight or when unattended (clear desk policies);

  • Laptops should be secured with a multistrand cable to an immovable object like a radiator when unattended;

  • Laptops should be password protected;

  • Laptops should be encrypted if data is sensitive;

  • Never share passwords and use complex passwords to prevent other gaining access to desktops and laptops;

  • Never leave desktops and laptops logged in and unattended;

The list goes on and on but use common sense - assume that the worst may happen and take precautions to stop or at least reduce it.

Let us all have a Happy and safe New Year

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