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Tax office data loss in contravention of data protection legislation.

McAfee : 20 November, 2007  (Technical Article)
In the wake of further data losses from the UK Government Revenue and Customs department, McAfee offers organisation advice on the prevention of data loss.
HM Revenue and Customs has admitted that they have lost computer discs containing confidential details of 15 million child benefit recipients. It is understood that ministers have been aware of the problems for nine or 10 days and it has led to the resignation of the chairman, Paul Gray. The resignation of Mr Gray was accepted because discs had been transported in breach of rules governing data protection. It is understood that Revenue and Customs says it does not believe the records - names, addresses and bank accounts - have fallen into the wrong hands.

Chancellor Alistair Darling is to give a Commons statement on 'a major operational problem' at 1530 GMT outlining the measures that will be taken to protect those whose data has been lost.

Available - Comment and direct briefing with McAfee security analyst Greg Day to discuss the impact of these lost details, who might be at risk, the potential revenue opportunities if this information has fallen into the wrong hands and the steps individuals can take to spot if someone is using their details for malicious intent.

'The loss of this data by HM Revenue and Customs is yet another example of the danger of putting sensitive information on an easy to lose format such as discs and the result of internal policies not being backed up by good security practice. The department will need to explain to consumers why it has taken 10 days to disclose this breach and the extent of the risk to their personal details. At this point we would have to assume the worst until more details are given and the public and the government should be taking steps to limit the damage and risk, if and when the data enters the wrong hands," attributable to Greg Day, McAfee security analyst)

The impact of this incident:.

- The potential availability of a large volume of data that can provide a revenue stream for malicious gain.
- Infringement to data protection laws.
- Damage to confidence in government departments.
- Potential opportunity if the data falls into the wrong hands to be used to create digital identities.

McAfee offers the following advice to businesses on the importance of implementing a 'Data Loss Prevention' solution:.

- Develop, enforce and ensure compliance of a security policy.
- Safeguard data at every stage.
- Data on portable storage formats or transferred over public connections should be encrypted and only accessed by trusted parties.
- Implement access control and monitoring tools.
- Monitor and prevent installation and usage of unauthorised applications.
- Educate and (re) train employees.
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