Opinion Former Article

BSIA: Secure data destruction essential as business fraud risk doubles

Figures released today reveal the rising risk of fraud faced by British businesses, and highlight the importance of secure data management and destruction in avoiding financial and reputational losses.

According to a BBC report, research by accountancy firm KPMG has revealed a startling rise in identity fraud over the past 12 months, with the value of this crime more than doubling in value to £26.3m. The research also suggests that insider fraud was to blame for more than 80% of fraud-related financial losses in 2012.

Anthony Pearlgood, Chairman of the Information Destruction Section of the British Security Industry Association, comments: It's important to remember that if confidential information does fall into the wrong hands, it not only causes problems for certain individuals or businesses but there is also the time and inconvenience involved in contacting the authorities and sorting out paperwork once a security breach has occurred. Moreover, as this research shows, data breaches often occur from inside an organisation, meaning it is extremely important that staff are adequately vetted before gaining access to sensitive information.

In addition, data breaches carry with them hefty fines and bear great financial costs to organisations. In 2010, the powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were extended, allowing it to issue penalty fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act. Moreover, a UK study sponsored by data protection firm PGP Corporation highlights how, in 2010, each individual record lost cost UK organisations an average of £71.

Anthony continues: “Only a small fraction of organisational waste paper and data processing products such as hard drives, CDs, memory sticks and DVDs are destroyed annually by professional firms.  By far the majority of such material continues to be disposed of via municipal refuse collection or waste paper reprocessing.  Neither method generally involves any kind of secure handling, however it is not uncommon to find much confidential data included amongst general waste, becoming a significant cause of avoidable risk.  It is not surprising in these circumstances that the rubbish bin is a regular source of prosecutions under the Data Protection Act, just as it has long been a core element of the private detective’s trade.”

With identity fraud continuing to threaten our society, institutions of all sizes should take extra precaution when destroying information, regardless of the material - whether it is paper documents, computer hard drives or even staff uniforms. The careless disposal of data often enables criminals to steal identities or conduct fraudulent transactions without anyone noticing.

Such are the consequences of careless disposal of sensitive waste, it is important for organisations to ensure that only reliable security providers are given the responsibility to handle such data. Members of the BSIA’s Information Destruction section securely destroy a range of confidential information, including paper, DVDs and computer hard-drives. The section members also destroy items that could potentially cause problems if they fall into the wrong hands, such as branded products and uniforms, and already have extensive experience supplying solutions to a wide range of customers.

As the risk of identity fraud rises, the private security industry continues to promote best practice and innovation to remain one step ahead of the criminals. This year sees the return of the BSIA’s Information Destruction Exhibition and Conference, a dedicated event bringing together data destruction professionals with suppliers to the industry, facilitating discussion and debate around emerging trends and new technology.

Anthony Pearlgood adds: “At a time when data breaches and effective disposal of information are becoming increasingly newsworthy, it is important for the whole of our industry to stay one step ahead of developments in technologies and processes, and understand the requirements and concerns affecting our supply chain.

“This commitment to best practice enables us to help our customers at a time when their businesses are most at risk from fraud. Almost any kind of personal information is valuable to criminals, whether it is residents’ records, financial reports, payroll information or personnel data. The unlawful use of such information contributes to an explosion of identity theft crimes, which allows criminals to obtain goods, credit or services in someone else’s name and could put the institution, customers, or even suppliers, at risk.”

The BSIA provides a dedicated online source of information and guidance for consumers looking to reduce the risk of fraud they face. This can be accessed at http://www.bsia.co.uk/preventidfraud

For those involved in the information destruction industry, more information about the BSIA’s Information Destruction Exhibition and Conference can be found online.

Editors Notes

The British Security Industry Association is the trade association covering all aspects of the professional security industry in the UK. Its members provide over 70% of UK security products and services and adhere to strict quality standards. For more information see www.bsia.co.uk, email info@bsia.co.uk or telephone 0845 389 3889.

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