Data leak puts focus on encryption

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Data leak puts focus on encryption

Simon Quicke

The channel has been handed a gift with yet another loss of confidential data, this time from a Ministry of Defence laptop.

The revelation towards the end of last year that HMRC had misplaced disks containing the records of 25 million people was seized upon by those arguing for more encryption and greater security around sensitive staff data (MicroScope, 26 November 2007).

The latest gaffe, in which a Royal Navy officer's laptop containing details of 600,000 people was stolen earlier this month, has resulted in calls across the industry for greater levels of encryption.

The response to the incident, from the Information Commissioner, who expressed his concern in the national media, down to those vendors selling systems that could have made the data secure, has been one of astonishment that such large amounts of data were stored on a single hard drive.

Gary Clark, vice-president EMEA at SafeNet, predicted that the current spate of data leaks would be sufficient to overcome the levels of user ignorance around the need
for encryption.

"Every man in the street knows about encryption. The recent incidents have catapulted backroom technology into the common language and it will become more important for people," he claimed.

Clark added that encryption was an issue that resellers should discuss with even the smallest customer: "Even a small company has sensitive data that an insider could take away from it."

Others in the industry advised resellers to counter any resistance to the technology based on cost.

"The cost of investing in enterprise data security solutions, such as encryption, is dwarfed by the potential cost of a data breach," said Jamie Cowper, director of marketing EMEA at PGP Corporation.

The Ministry of Defence's admission that another two laptops have also been lost has led to more calls for tougher laws on data leak disclosure.

"Unless employees start to understand that their job is on the line if they fail to follow procedures, this culture of careless data handling will continue," warned Alan Bentley, vice-president, EMEA, at Lumension Security.

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