The real extent of Britain’s hidden data breaches

The real extent of Britain’s problem with data breaches has been revealed by a survey which suggests almost one in three IT workers are keeping them quiet.

Data breaches have hit the news already in 2017 with high profile cases such as mobile phone company Three – where an employee’s password was stolen in March and the data of 200,000 customers compromised.

Then in April, cybercriminals seized 250,000 customer records at Wonga – including bank account details.

However, it seems these stories may be only the tip of the iceberg.

New research provided some shocking results which suggest many of the UK’s data breaches are going unreported.

The most hard-hitting statistics include:

  • 32 per cent know someone in their company who has not reported a data breach.
  • 31 per cent have delayed reporting a data breach to senior management or the appropriate authorities.
  • 29 per cent have chosen not to report a breach to senior management or the appropriate authorities.
  • 27 per cent know someone in their previous company who has not reported a data breach.
  • 14 per cent don’t know who to report a breach to.
  • 8 per cent don’t know what constitutes a data breach.

“Some of these statistics really are shocking and suggest that data breaches may be far more common and more widespread than many people realise,” said Dominic Johnstone, Head of Information Management at Crown Records Management.

“There appears to be a culture inside many companies that the best response to a breach is to ignore it or keep it quiet.

“Perhaps this comes from a fear of the loss of reputation which can be experienced when breaches are publicised. Or perhaps it is simply down to lack of a clear procedures and information management in the business. Either way, the implications are serious, and the fact still remains that data breaches must legally be reported within 72 hours.”

New legislation, such as the UK Data Bill and the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force in May 2018, include measures to tackle data breaches.

The latter will bring in huge fines for businesses which suffer breaches as a result of poor compliance. It also sets a strict timeframe for the reporting of breaches – with fines for those who do not meet them.

“It is absolutely vital that businesses tackle this culture of secrecy because in future unprotected data loss will simply not be acceptable,” Johnstone said. “In fact, it shouldn’t be acceptable now.

“Having a clear data protection and information management programme in place is vital for businesses to avoid these kind of problems. It should be very clear who is responsible for reporting breaches and who they should be reported to.

“Until businesses grasp how much a breach can cost them – both financially and in terms of reputation – this problem is not going to go away.”