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Low consumer confidence in public sector data security

Guardium : 13 May, 2009  (Technical Article)
Guardium survey discovers public attitude to Government data security with as little as 2% having complete faith in public sector security policies
British consumers are very concerned about the security of their personal and financial data held by banks, retailers and government organisations, according to an opinion poll of Londoners carried out last week. Of the three types of organisation, banks emerged as the most trusted, followed by retailers and government.

The survey, conducted in central London last week by database security company Guardium, asked consumers to share their views on the safety of their personal data from both internal and external threats across a range of organisations.

Of the 102 people surveyed, almost half (43%) were worried about their bank's ability to protect their credit cards from fraud, and a similar number (40%) had concerns about their bank's ability to protect their personal data.

Yet despite the current economic climate and negative media stories surrounding the banking industry, the respondents had more faith in their banks' security procedures than those of retailers or government bodies. Almost two-thirds (61%) - or about 50% more respondents - were concerned about UK retailers' ability to protect their details; and 63% were concerned about the government's ability to safely protect their personal information.

Almost one-fifth (16%) of those surveyed had been victims of fraud; although an overwhelming 87% of those affected had been pleased with their bank's ability to handle the situation and provide a positive outcome.

Consumers were more concerned about external threats - such as criminal attacks - to their banking information than internal threats, although 25% said they were worried about the potential threat from rogue or disgruntled employees in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Only 2% of respondents said they had 'complete trust' in the UK Government's ability to safeguard their personal information, compared with 18% saying they had total faith in their banks.

According to a data breach report by the Verizon Business RISK team - analysing breaches in Europe as well as in the US, Canada Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and Australia - more electronic records were breached in 2008 than in the previous four years combined. Eastern Europe and East Asia are the top sources of external attacks; with the report concluding that we "have a great deal of evidence that malicious activity from Eastern Europe is the work of organised crime."

Attacks on database servers accounted for 75% of all records breached, with payment card breaches consuming 98% of all records compromised. In a telling statistic, only 5% of breached organisations were compliant with the Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) requirement for tracking and monitoring all access to cardholder data.

David Valovcin, vice president for Guardium said: "We are now seeing more clever, complex and targeted cybercrime attacks that ever before. Recent media stories have revealed how easily data can be compromised if organisations do not look after it safely. This is putting a serious dent in consumers' faith in the institutions to which they entrust their confidential personal information."

He continued: "Traditional perimeter defences such as firewalls and anti-virus are no longer sufficient to defend against cybercriminals who can easily bypass them with Web application attacks such as SQL injection. Organisations need to restore people's confidence by putting 21st-century monitoring technologies in place to ensure their data remains safe at all times from both external and internal threats."
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