Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Data, Britney and Jeremy Clarkson

Posted by Emily on January 25, 2008

You don’t need to look very hard to find an example of a major data security breach in recent weeks. The subject has crashed into the news with an air of scandal that rivals that of Ms Spears herself.

Mike Howse (the EMEA MD of a company called Protegrity) articulates the root of the problem beautifully in a Computing column:

“Far too often companies and government agencies establish good data security policies, everyone signs off on those policies, and then does exactly what they want.”

In other words, the weakest link in the security chain is always your staff.

So here we are in the middle of a storm, but what should we do now? Should I panic and change my pin number? Should I write a strongly worded letter to the government? Should I start a campaign on Facebook?

Actually, I’m not going to do anything. Of course companies – and the government itself – need to comply with the law. Data security has to be taken very seriously indeed.

However my calmness comes from the belief that if someone really wants to steal from me, be it my money or my identity, they will do so regardless of the woeful incompetence of whatever organisation has left my address on a roundabout somewhere. This is an age when millions upon millions of people willingly give up their personal data to the likes of Facebook without checking out how secure it will be in their hands. This is an age when millions upon millions of people put documents such as bank statements and gas bills into the recycling bin without shreading them first.

But I warn you of the pitfalls of my blasé attitude. Jeremy Clarkson had a similar attitude to mine and arrogantly said that data strategy breaches were a “storm in a tea cup” in one of his newspaper columns. He was so confident that his money would be safe that he published his personal details in a national newspaper and threw down the gauntlet.

But in a beautifully poetic turn of events a benign hacker transferred £500 of Clarkson’s money to charity. The moral of the story? Lapses in data security are unacceptable, but they are not the only way to get stung. Apparently your mum was right when she told you to keep an eye on your purse.

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One Response to “Data, Britney and Jeremy Clarkson”

  1. In other words, the weakest link in the security chain is always your staff.

    I think the weakest link may be our government who I understand are considering offering a U.S. company, Lockheed Martin, the contract to data-process the next UK Census.

    Despite their claims of absolute security, some people are a little concerned that the Patriot Act could be used to force Lockheed Martin to divulge our personal data to US government agencies.

    So the weakest link is not the staff, its the bosses.

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