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26.01.2009
Home Office promises data encryption

The Home Office has pledged to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that it will enhance data security measures to better protect citizens’ personal information.

In an incident of concern to those in information security jobs, a contractor to the Home Office, PA Consulting, last year lost a data stick containing personal data on thousands of individuals.

As a result, the Home Office was found by the ICO to have breached the Data Protection Act.

The ministry must now comply by stringent encryption guidelines and force any subcontractor to do the same.

All mobile or portable devices containing personal data must be encrypted.

The ICO also made the Home Office sign a formal undertaking to protect citizens’ data.

Assistant commissioner Mick Gorrill said the breach was "serious" because of the volume of sensitive data lost.

He added: "This breach illustrates that even though a contractor lost the data, it is the data controller [the Home Office] which is responsible for the security of the information.

"It is vital that sensitive personal information is handled properly and held securely at all times."

The offending memory stick was left in an unlocked drawer last summer.

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