Austerity ‘creating data security risks’

A third of public sector bodies have scaled back their information management capacity due to funding cuts, leading to data breaches, according to research.

A survey of senior executives responsible for managing public sector information and implementing the government’s digital transformation strategy was carried out by data management supplier Iron Mountain.

It found that 91% of respondents found that valuable information handling skills and expertise has been lost as a result of cuts to information management staff.

Phil Greenwood, managing director & commercial director at the firm, said: “The UK’s public sector is going through a period of transformational change. Almost everyone we surveyed said that cost cutting had resulted in the loss of valuable skills in records and information management.

“For the public sector to further its success in bringing services online, freeing up its estate and reducing cost, the transformation must be met with improvements in how records and information are managed.”

The survey also found that 81% of respondents said information management staff are over-stretched, with 60% saying they lacked the relevant skills.

As a result of the cuts, 61% of public sector bodies say they have lost important documents, while 40% have experienced a data breach.

The white paper said: “Poor processes can create an environment in which individuals, teams and departments make their own arrangements with regard to information categorisation,  filing, retrieval and retention, with no single person  having a complete overview or holding accountability.

“When continuity is lost through staff turnover or departments closing or merging, the result is a lack of ownership and little integration of information.”

On the positive side, 77% of the survey group said the way they manage information is fit-for-purpose.

The survey also found data security issues arising as a result of the government’s drive to rationalise the public sector property estate.

More than a third of respondents said that the security of paper records has been, or could have been, compromised a result of closing or moving offices.

The white paper said: “When workplaces are closed and employees are relocated, who is responsible for ensuring the relocation of records has been considered and that they are moved to an environment that is sufficiently secure? All too often, information security is overlooked when a building is decommissioned.”

Colin Marrs

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