With a new report from Big Brother Watch revealing that police across the UK have experienced 2,315 breaches in the last five years – roughly 10 every week. Data security specialist Justine Cross from Watchful Software provides an insight on how forces need to work to improve their security.
Justine Cross, Regional Director at Watchful Software:
“The revelation that police forces across the UK are suffering almost continuous breaches of sensitive data shows that data security needs to be taken much more seriously.
“Classifying all of the data on the police network and restricting file access to authorised users on the system would sharply reduce the number of data leaks. Encrypting important and sensitive files against access from unauthorised users would for example have prevented many of the 877 cases Big Brother Watch found where data had been disclosed to third parties. Classifying a file as “internal use only” for example would prevent it from being opened anywhere outside of the system or even leaving the network, eliminating the risk of it being emailed or transferred by USB.
“Printed material can also be classified in this way, with a watermark citing when and by whom it was printed, introducing more accountability for instances such as the extreme example of case files being left in a raided premises.
“The fact that hundreds of officers have also apparently routinely misused their privilege to access data inappropriately means a stronger hand is clearly needed in educating forces on data policy and the consequences of bad practice. Until a stricter approach to handling data is brought in across the board, police forces will continue to have their credibility undermined by these cases of poor practice.”