Local government organisations in the UK are making good progress when it comes to their data protection activities, recently-revealed figures have shown, but there is still more work to be done in order to tackle the issue.
A Freedom of Information request to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) earlier this year revealed there has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of data breaches reported by the public sector over the last two years. Over the same period, the overall number of breaches reported to the body increased by 66 per cent.
However, it also revealed that local governments remain at high risk for data protection issues, with only healthcare organisations reporting a higher number of breaches.
Tony Pepper, chief executive of Egress, noted in an article for Government Computing that local authorities deal with a wide range of highly sensitive data ranging from healthcare details to disability and child protection information, all of which could be hugely damaging if it were to fall into the wrong hands.
He also noted that as e-government initiatives gather pace, more of this data is being captured, stored and processed digitally than ever before.
"As data is shared between a growing number of devices and locations so the risk of it ending up in the wrong hands increases," Mr Pepper stated. "Unfortunately, not everyone is as tech-savvy as IT managers would like. When combined with workplace pressure fomented by austerity cuts, this can create an additional risk that data protection policies may be ignored."
He highlighted figures from the ICO's FoI data that showed only nine per cent of data breaches reported to the body in a three-month period earlier this year were the result of insecure websites and direct hacking attacks. Instead, the biggest cause of leaks was human error, which was a factor in nearly two-thirds of cases (62 per cent).
This could involve a wide range of actions, from inadvertently emailing confidential data to the wrong person to allowing information to be seen on a publicly-viewable screen where any passer-by can view information.