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News

HM Customs voluntarily discloses laptop theft.

PGP (GB) : 08 October, 2007  (Technical Article)
Stolen government laptop contained highly secure, encrypted data with low likelihood of the data being able to be accessed.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that a laptop holding sensitive personal and financial customer data has been stolen from the car of one of its employees, who had been using the laptop for a routine audit of tax information from several investment firms.

HMRC has assured customers that an investigation is underway and that the data was fully protected by 'complex password and top level encryption'. However, this has proved to be of little comfort to some customers.

Jamie Cowper, Director of European Marketing at enterprise data protection expert PGP Corporation, has made the following comments:

'By taking full responsibility for this loss, HMRC is a perfect example of the rapidly changing attitude to data breach disclosure in the UK.

With top level encryption making it virtually impossible to access the data held on the stolen laptop, HMRC had no real obligation or reason to report the breach. As such, this voluntary disclosure shows a refreshing level of ethical responsibility and commitment to its customers.

However, despite the safeguards in place, some customers are still concerned that their personal information might fall into the wrong hands - highlighting the need for greater public education in the finer points of data protection.

Organisations must do more to reassure consumers before such breaches take place that all reasonable steps have been taken to protect their information - and that means the widespread use of encryption. The sooner this happens, the less fear, uncertainty and doubt there will be in the aftermath of a breach such as this.'
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