Only 55 of the data loss breaches have actually been reported
If you can’t stop data breaches, at least cover them up! This seems to be the data security code British authorities go by. Too bad for them there is something called Freedom of Information Act requests… A new report issued by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch showed that councils across the UK experienced over a thousand data loss cases over a three year period – August 2008 to August 2011.
To get the information, the group sent 433 FOIs to local authorities and councils across the Great Britain and showed s shocking discrepancy between the reported 50 something incidents and the harsh reality. Not only did BBW uncover the data mishandling cases, they also requested information on what happened to the employees of said councils – if they had been disciplined, fired or prosecuted over the data breaches -, and inquired about the council’s response to each incident. Read more
Almost two weeks ago, we revealed the major changes that had happened this year in the major data breaches top of all times. 2011 was leading in what the number of high profile of breaches is concerned. The top might change once more, ensuring an even stronger position for the current year as hackers hit Steam, a gaming giant that is home to 35 million user accounts.
What we know so far is that the Steam customer data base has been indeed accessed by hackers.
“We learned that intruders obtained access to a Steam database in addition to the forums,” said Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Steam parent company Valve. “This database contained information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information.”
The ICO conducted an investigation on a case of hardware loss in May at the Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council. The incident consisted in the loss of an unencrypted memory stick by a Council’s finance department employee, stick which contained names, addresses and payment details for 18.000 residents. The missing hardware was not found to the date.
The investigation concluded that the Rochdale Council has breached the Data Protection Act by not providing employees with encrypted memory sticks (although it was a known fact that these devices would be used to transfer private information) and by not training their employees to properly use portable devices for work purposes.
Sally Anne Poole, ICO’s head of enforcement qualifies this mishap as ‘unacceptable’ and says ‘This incident could have been easily avoided if adequate security measures had been in place.’ in a quote by eWeek.
The measures taken by the ICO in this case consist of signing an undertaking of actions to take to implement data protection policies by 31st March 2012.
Let’s hope that more than one private data handling organization learns from this incident and encrypts their portable devices using proper solutions.
A whole lot was written on loss/theft of hardware (laptops, USB sticks, external hard drives, etc.) and we had thought that organizations would learn their lesson and encrypt sensitive data on such supports. Apparently, things aren’t quite like that and two recent incidents come to prove it.
A resident student at Vancouver Coastal Health lost a laptop and a USB stick (there is a high probability that the hardware was stolen) at the Toronto Airport. The information stored on the drives was password protected but it wasn’t encrypted.
A Vancouver Coastal Health official calls the incident ‘unfortunate’ and says that ‘This is the way physicians and other health care workers need to do their job. They need to use these devices.’ He admits that many professionals use laptops and that the agency has some issues handling mobile technologies.
Another mishap took place in the United Kingdom and the theft of a laptop that stored personal information of 100 young people who participated in inclusion programs. This laptop was in the house of a contractor of the Newcastle Youth Offending Team organization. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has established a fine for this organization for not encrypting the data. According to Sally-Anne Poole ‘Encryption is a basic procedure and an inexpensive way to ensure that information is kept secure.’ She underlines the fact that organizations working with contractors must make sure that the latter ones align to their security policies.
Let’s hope that at least legal constraints will force private data handlers to implement solutions and politics to maintain their data safe and secure.
While data breaches are as common as any other daily occurrence in the business and individual worlds, the large security incidents don’t happen as often, especially if you think that one of the breaches in the top ten all time largest data exposures dates back to 1984. 2011 is not yet over and it already is the poster child of this top we all want to see unchanged.
2011 is the only year with three major data loss incidents in the top ten: Sony Corporation with 77 million records exposed, SK Communications, Nate, Cyworld with 35 million and again Sony Corporation through their Sony Online Entertainment division with close to 25 million records exposed. Luckily for us, although it featured large incidents, 2011 did not create as many victims as 2009 with its two incidents, Heartland Payment Systems, Tower Federal Credit Union, Beverly National Bank which share the number one position in the infamous top with 130 million records exposed and RockYou Inc. with another 32 million. Read more