A survey released today reveals that in the last year, 4500 memory sticks have been forgotten in people’s pockets as they take their clothes to be washed at the local dry cleaners.
From 6th April onwards if data is lost and it causes a major security breach, this could now cost a company up to £500k with new powers given to the Information Commissioner’s office (ICO) to fine companies who have not sufficiently protected customers details under the Data Protection Act.
However, when compared with the same study twelve months ago, the number of these devices languishing forgotten in people’s pockets has halved, and yet it’s still a staggering number of possible data breaches and a potential money spinner for the ICO.
However, I have a theory that this decline is likely to be a change in users’ habits as opposed to a significant breakthrough in people’s vigilance. In fact, its experience on the frontline of this battle is that users are now downloading information onto smartphones and netbooks, which have boomed in popularity in the last year, so although on the surface the decline looks promising in reality the situation has just been spread across a multitude of other devices.
Although this study shows a positive drop in the number of lost memory sticks I would urge users to take more care than ever not to download unprotected customer details and other sensitive information that if lost could lead to a security breach, especially now there are harsh fines afoot.
The survey was carried out in the UK to gauge the frequency and ease with which mobile devices, such as memory sticks, are lost or forgotten in strange places such as dry cleaners and should warn people across the globe to demonstrate prudence when downloading information to carry around with them as it does frequently get lost.
In previous studies conducted by my company amongst taxi drivers in London and New York over 12,500 handheld devices such as laptops, iPods and memory sticks are forgotten at the back of taxis every 6 months!
This survey is just one illustration of the stark truth that device losses are happening everywhere, everyday, worldwide. Organisations want to leverage the business benefits of mobile computing and provide their employees the flexibility to work wherever and whenever they want to.
However, this must be balanced with the requirement of protecting the organisations data, especially to avoid penalties – such as that promised by the ICO, brand damage or even embarrassing press headlines. If sensitive or valuable data is being carried then people should protect it with encryption to prevent unauthorised access at any point – as it could easily end up in the wrong hands.
Not just USB sticks left at the dry cleaners, but wedding rings, lipstick and…
When asked to recall what the strangest objects were that they’d found in customers pockets most had found pens, lipstick, stockings and a wedding ring. However, one unfortunate dry cleaner had found a pair of false teeth.