Can the public sector be trusted with our data, asks security firm

1 Aug 2008

Another security breach in relation to lost/stolen government laptops has occurred as a laptop from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office containing personal information regarding staff at a certain government department was left behind at a bus stop by an employee.

While the Data Protection Commissioner was notified of the lost laptop last month, it is not known when it went missing or how much detail was contained on the machine.

Nor is there information on whether the information was password-protected or encrypted in any way.

Laptop security firm Alcatel-Lucent said that in order to “prevent further eroding of the public’s confidence”, this was a good time to ensure that the Government does something to make sure all sensitive information stays with the IT department exclusively, never leaving with an individual employee.

“Laptops are currently being lost by organisations with such alarming frequency that many now claim they should be banned from holding sensitive data at all – seriously inhibiting the benefits of working remotely,” said Loic Flaguel, business development manager at Alcatel-Lucent.

Flaguel said while it is good practice to educate government staff on appropriate security measures in relation to storing and protecting sensitive information, it is also essential an IT department can enforce policies that prevent data breaches such as this where a laptop was accidentally left at a bus stop.

“Precious few laptops are ever successfully located, so it makes sense for firms to examine alternative means of safeguarding the data by deploying solutions that are capable of monitoring, managing and, if necessary, ‘killing’ laptops – irrespective of their location or status,” said Flaguel.

“Technology now exists that can lock down laptops even if they’re switched off, meaning there’s really no excuse for losing sensitive details in this manner.”

An investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner into this incident is currently ongoing.

By Marie Boran