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Data loss: as prevalent now as it ever was

Data loss: as prevalent now as it ever was

Over the last few years, it seems like the number of data loss cases have subsided. Sadly, however, that's not the case; in fact, there are still major leaks that continue to cause huge devastation not only to the people whose data has been leaked, but the companies that succumb to them.

Just this month, it was revealed that Greater Manchester Police had lost a USB memory stick after an officer's house was broken into. On it was a huge amount of information on over 1,000 people linked to serious crime; the force was fined £120,000, which was levied by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and paid directly to the Treasury.

David Smith, ICO director of data protection, said: "This was truly sensitive personal data, left in the hands of a burglar by poor data security. The consequences of this type of breach really do send a shiver down the spine. It should have been obvious to the force that the type of information stored on its computers meant proper data security was needed."

Data loss is also taking less traditional forms, and this was highlighted by one of the most recent blockbuster titles for the Xbox 360. Borderlands 2 received a title update that closed off an exploit that made it possible for a hacked save file to unlock "hardcore mode", resulting in players losing save files - and anyone killed by these players in multiplayer. Gearbox, the game's developer, was blamed for a lot of consumer discord and while it escaped a fine, the damaging feedback it received from once-loyal gamers may have proved to be a stumbling block for the organisation's future.

In a report earlier this month, SC Magazine explained that the dangers of losing sensitive information are "clear, but the loss of any information from any company can be disastrous". Pointing to a number of studies it had reported over the last few years, it was confirmed that over 40 per cent of companies will never recover from "catastrophic" data loss, while 90 per cent that suffer "significant" data loss will go out of business within two years.

Better public understanding of data loss is necessary to combat future possibilities of data loss, whether it's simply getting better technology to store their data, hosting it with a dedicated off-site company, or simply installing a better policy of data management. This was raised in a recent piece for Computing; Phil Allen, director of identity and access management at Quest - now a subsidiary of Dell - believes the visibility of data security issues is extremely important.

He said: "People do need to understand that getting this under control is an important thing. I don't know whether specifically naming and shaming people will really raise that visibility, it may well do.

"People really need to think about the consequences of what happens when they lose that information and what would be the cost to the business."