Believe all you read in the press and you might be forgiven for thinking that hackers are poised to strike at any moment, however, human error remains the main cause of data breaches, according to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office’s own statistics.
A Freedom of Information request made by Egress Software Technologies shows that between the beginning of January and end of March this year there were 448 incidents of data breach or loss recorded by the ICO, with most incidents attributed to human error.
Of the 448 incidents, 74 were recorded as a loss or theft of paperwork, a further 74 were cases where data was posted or faxed to the wrong recipient and in 42 cases data was emailed to the incorrect recipient.
Unencrypted devices were either lost or stolen on 20 occasions in the first three months of the year, and 24 cases concerned insecure disposal of paperwork. Organisations failed to redact personal data 28 times during the period and a further 19 cases in total concerned either information uploaded to a webpage, verbal disclosure or insecure disposal of hardware.
In comparison, there were 39 cases of data breaches in the first quarter of 2016 stemming from insecure websites, which includes incidents of hacking. A further 128 data security breaches were recorded by the ICO during the period but were not categorised.
Egress Software chief executive Tony Pepper said: “The fact that so many breaches are caused by methods of working that are known as data breach pitfalls – such as faxing and posting sensitive information, or using plaintext email – should be a major concern for all organisations.
“Organisations need to begin gaining a holistic understanding of the information security measures they have in place.”
“This begins with examining the nature of the data produced and handled by their staff, and using a classification tool to mandate how that it is treated. Next, they need to make sure that, when required, the data is released in the correct manner.
“Integration between classification policy and tools, such as email encryption and secure online collaboration, can ensure the correct protection and control is applied to the data when it is released from their environment – functionality obviously not available in more traditional ways of working,” he said.
Source: Cyber Security Intelligence