"Inevitable": 58% not surprised that UK government lost data on 25 million people

November 27, 2007 Sophos Press Release

The HMRC published an apology on its website
The HMRC published an apology on its website.

Research conducted by IT security and control firm Sophos has revealed that most of the British public polled are unsurprised by their government losing confidential information on 25 million people, that could be used by identity thieves.

Last week it was revealed that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had lost CDs containing personal data, with all information on all British families with children under the age of 16. The CDS went missing after they were sent from the HMRC to the National Audit Office.

58% of the over 350 people polled described the data loss as "inevitable" and said they felt that the government was being careless with data. Less than a third of people said they were shocked that the data breach had happened.

Data contained on the two lost CDs includes parents' and children's names, dates of birth, addresses, National Insurance numbers and details of the bank or building society accounts into which Child Benefit is paid.

Survey results

The UK Government has announced that Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HRMC) has lost personal details on 25 million people, including bank account information. What's your reaction?

I'm shocked that this could have happened
31%
I'm not surprised that governments treat data carelessly, it's inevitable
58%
I don't care
11%

Source: Sophos online poll, November 2007, 354 respondents.

"The HMRC's data loss isn't just incompetence on a grand scale, for the individuals affected by the ID theft it can be financially crippling. If criminals get their claws on your personal information they could make a significant impact on your bank balance and credit rating," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Governments need to work hard to reassure voters that they are taking all necessary measures to ensure data is always kept securely. This study shows that public feeling on this issue is strong, and that embarrassing and potentially dangerous incidents like the one last week only further damage the trust that people need to have in the guardians of their confidential data."

In separate research published this month, Sophos revealed that 85% of the public lacked confidence in the security systems of their local government.

How can you tell if you are a victim of identity theft?

Symptoms include:

For more information visit the British Home Office's Identity Theft website at www.identity-theft.org.uk. The HMRC has set up a telephone hotline on 0845 302 1444 for people who want further information.

Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated.