ICO ‘sounds the alarm’ over legal profession’s shoddy data-handling

Encryption technology is better than carrying around bundles of case notes, the ICO has said

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has voiced its concern with a spat of data-protection blunders in the legal profession, warning barristers and solicitors they face fines as high as £500,000 if they put their clients’ data at risk.

Information commissioner Christopher Graham said 15 incidents have been reported to the data watchdog in the past three months. As such he is concerned many staff in the legal profession are not using the necessary data-protection practices and technologies to keep data secure.

“The number of breaches reported by barristers and solicitors may not seem that high, but given the sensitive information they handle, and the fact that it is often held in paper files rather than secured by any sort of encryption, that number is troubling,” he said.

“It is important that we sound the alarm at an early stage to make sure this problem is addressed before a barrister or solicitor is left counting the financial and reputational damage of a serious data breach.”

The ICO said the use of encryption technologies should become standard practice while sending information by email was cautioned against too. In particular, the ICO warned of the perils of using auto-complete in emails, which can cause people to inadvertently send data to the wrong recipient.

Finally, the ICO said that when disposing of old computers it is imperative to ensure they are properly wiped of any existing data. While the ICO did not specify any incidents it has been alerted to in the past three months the tips it provided could give some indication of the errors committed.

V3 contacted The Law Society to ask for its response to the ICO’s warning, but had received no reply at the time of publication.

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5 August 2014 | 1:17 pm – Source: v3.co.uk

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