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The news has been filled with data loss stories over the past few months. But rather than berating politicians and government agencies, we should be looking at our own data-protecting habits – or lack thereof. When it comes to data, prevention is better than cure, says Andrew Jordan, COO of Beyond Analysis.

As you read this, do you know precisely where your wallet or handbag is? Of course you do. What about your house keys? Sure. But can you safely say that all your personal data is secure? That brings up a whole different set of issues.

Whether we like it or not, we all now live in a world rich in data. We literally can’t leave our homes without creating data on a computer system somewhere: from CCTV cameras, to credit card machines, to tube or subway passes, we are surrounded by machinery that captures our every move. Such statements are rich pickings for the Civil Libertarians, but there is a far more serious issue at stake here.

The news is filling up with stories about people losing other people’s data. Various organs of the British Government have been guilty of it for quite some time. At the time of writing, Defence Secretary Des Browne was set to make a statement to MPs on the theft of a military laptop containing the details of 600,000 people. And just over a year ago, the Nationwide bank in the UK received a $2m fine from the regulator for losing a laptop. But why is this happening?

It comes down to some very simple and common sense principles. You hold a credit card in your hand and you can visibly see that it is an important item with intrinsic or implied value. But hold a CD-ROM in your hand and that immediacy is lost. You can’t see the value. And therein lies the problem. That CD-ROM doesn’t even need to contain data as sensitive as credit card details. Something as simple as a list of sales prospects would be of considerable interest to a competitor, or a list of internal phone numbers or email addresses would be of value to the press, headhunters or spammers. And because it is stored in electronic format, it’s devastatingly easy to duplicate and transmit.

We lay the blame on these mishaps squarely at the door of the Government bodies or companies who handle the data. But instead, we should be educating the general population about data and what it means to us. We see TV ads for credit cards that indemnify you against identity fraud so you feel safe in the knowledge that someone can’t use your details in criminal activity. But for many of us, we go to work the next day and forget that our jobs may involve data that is just as important, albeit it may not relate to us personally. And it is this disconnection that creates the problems.

So, here are five practical steps to help raise awareness of these issues and hopefully avoid another data “mishap”:

1. Think about what data you have access to and how important it is. Many companies classify their data to provide guidance in this area. If something says “Highly Confidential”, chances are you’re not supposed to leave it lying on your desk when you go home at night. But use common sense in this area too, even if there is no formal classification of data. As described above, even something as benign as a phone list is of value to someone.

2. Treat your laptop as if it was your own. You wouldn’t leave your wallet on the back seat of your car, so don’t do the same with your laptop. You are almost certainly unaware of the extent to which you’ve got local copies of sensitive data on there.

3. Treat corporate data as if it was your own. You wouldn’t email your online banking details to a broad distribution list, so why would you do it with confidential data? Chances are it relates to someone, even if it isn’t you.

4. Think before you leave the office. Employees increase the risk of mishaps simply by working on laptops. All too often data is pulled off a network and “localised” to be worked on, yet rarely are the updated files uploaded again and the local copy deleted. It’s safer on the network and you have the added bonus of it being backed up.

5. Be aware, and raise awareness in others. As described above, no amount of policy and rule-making in the workplace can prevent problems occurring. The only guaranteed way of preventing data being mislaid or misappropriated is to be aware of data in the first place and then applying a healthy dose of common sense.

Prevention is certainly better than cure when it comes to data. However complex and automated computer systems become they will inevitably involve human interaction at some point. Provided people become more aware of data, and treat other people’s data as carefully as they would their own, problems like those faced by the Nationwide and the British Government can easily be prevented.

www.beyondanalysis.net

About Andrew Jordan

Andrew Jordan is a seasoned technology professional with over 15 years experience in management, operations and product development, with particular expertise in consumer profiling and behavioural science derived from data. His previous roles include C-level engagements with Citigroup and Lexis-Nexis, where he was responsible for setting data strategy and implementing data management best practice.

About Beyond Analysis

Beyondanalysis is a data-driven software solutions and advisory services company.

beyondanalysis recognise that data holds the key to unlocking the value in human behaviour for businesses trying to understand their customer better. This data created both by a business and about a business via the social web has the potential to significantly impact a business both positively and negatively.

beyondanalysis bridge the gap between data, technology and business for their clients. They advise their clients to help them understand data and how to use it within their business; provide analytical services to identify what it means; and develop tools to help deploy it throughout their business and marketing strategies. Using all types of data they go beyond traditional analysis to create insight and decision tools that drive real value and sustainable business growth.

beyondanalysis have developed one of the first tracking and monitoring tools for the social web. Reputica™ offers a tracking and predictive modelling service which can predict where and when news stories are likely to go across the internet, enabling clients to proactively manage breaking news. In the fast moving world of citizen journalism, this is extremely powerful as reputations can be made or broken within a matter of minutes.

For further information, please contact:

Melanie Harries, Head of Corporate Communications and PR
melanie.harries@beyondanalysis.net
T. +44 (0) 207 193 1816 / M: +44 (0) 7976 304 437
www.beyondanalysis.net

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Beyond Analysis Ltd in the following categories: Consumer Technology, Personal Finance, Business & Finance, Computing & Telecoms, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.