Council Signs Pact to Tighten Security Measures After Losing Data of Children in Care

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
November 24, 2010 /

After losing an unencrypted Universal Serial Bus (USB) stick that contained personal data of 40 children in its care, Stoke-on-Trent City Council has signed an agreement to strengthen its security measures on information handling.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently reported the council’s recklessness that resulted in the loss of the memory stick containing reports from the court and information about the children’s care proceedings. The council did not employ tight security measures such as encrypting or protecting the memory stick with a password.

Stoke Council is bound by its own rules to implement maximum security measures when handling sensitive data. However, an investigation showed such regulations were not followed as anybody could open files in the USB device which has not been password-protected.

An anonymous citizen who found the USB device at Potteries Way, Hanley turned to The Sentinel on March 26 to hand in the device. It was then forwarded to Stoke-on-Trent City Council which brought up the case to ICO through some of its officers that discovered the lapses in security measures. The council has since then agreed to encrypt its USB devices in the future when storing personal information.

Sally Anne-Poole, enforcement group manager at the ICO admonished the council, saying authorities who are tasked to handle sensitive data, especially of vulnerable children, must take extra security measures in exercising its responsibility to ensure these data are protected.

ICO could have penalized the council with a fine of up to £500,000 for violating the Data Protection Act, but Anne-Poole said the punishment could not be applied to the council since the incident has taken place before ICO gained the power to do so.

Stoke Council’s chief executive John van de Laarschot signed the pact which obliges the council to heighten security measures by encrypting its USB devices and providing training to its staff in using them.


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