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Greater emphasis on personal data security needed by retailers.

Dns : 12 February, 2008  (Technical Article)
Deloitte research points towards a lack of adequate data security amongst retailers, something that dns believes needs to be addressed to conform to the Data Protection Act and PCI standards.
Latest research from Deloitte reveals that almost nine out of ten (86 per cent) retailers have never performed an inventory to check where customer data is stored and how the information is managed. The recent high profile examples of data loss - from Government organisations to high street stores - have highlighted the need for better security and management of such sensitive data.

Despite the introduction of legislation such as the Data Protection Act, and increasingly stringent regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), it appears that retailers are still not getting fully to grips with the responsibility they hold and the dangers that are lurking from either unscrupulous acts or user error.

Often this lack of responsibility is manifested with companies unwilling, or unable to draft a specific security policy. Companies that can fully appreciate the sensitive data they have at their disposal ensure that there are effective measures in place to secure data. Without a policy in place, there is no viable option for companies when threats appear.

Natasja Bolton, head of assurance services at dns, a specialist information security consultancy in the UK, contends that rather than an indifferent attitude towards personal data security, it is usually a case of a lack of education around the risks, or a lack of resources in house to secure such data.

"Almost every week a new story breaks of data loss from one organisation or another. Most people are now aware of the dangers, but are struggling with the methods and technology to neutralise them," said Bolton.

Whether it is a criminal action that leads to data theft or an innocent mistake by an employee, the amount of data held by retailers makes them an especially high risk. With the introduction of customer loyalty cards, credit card details and other financial and personal data files, the amount of valuable data they hold means that customers are essentially at the mercy of the company's security policy.

"We are now seeing an increase in the number of organisations requesting security advice and policy implementation which is of course encouraging. Bringing in a consultancy of security experts is often the most successful and cost effective route, which not only secures the data, but ensures compliance with the increasing amount of regulation. "

"It is obviously to the benefit of retailers to hold customer data, but with this comes with a responsibility to keep this safe and ensure that their customers are not put at risk," concluded Bolton.
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