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Organizations seem to be handing out data with unencrypted USB drives

by on July 24, 2012

It’s like a smorgasbord of opportunities for data thieves recently in North America – both Canadian and U.S. entities have been losing information left and right that hasn’t been properly encrypted, encoded or locked. Officials tied to these organizations are just meandering about with flash drives holding millions of pieces of sensitive data without a care in the world, resulting in data loss on a scale that’s almost laughable.

Companies can take a lesson from these businesses and use better backup data storage methods including solid state tape and encrypted files. Since these other entities did not take proper precautions to safeguard information, they may be looking at grievous damages in the future.

Mounting data problems

In one of the most remarkable feats of data loss in recent months, a staff member at Elections Ontario, the group responsible for compiling and storing voter information for the entire province, managed to lose two USB drives containing the personal files of over 2 million people. The loss event took place in April, according to Gov Info Security. Residents were not notified until July. On top of making a huge data blunder to begin with, the office followed it up by handling it in what seems a completely untimely manner, which could result in additional damages to individuals who could otherwise have tried to protect themselves.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa, said in a public statement that the data lost included names, birth dates, internal processing data and other information, but nothing about specific voting details. Since there were no encryption keys or passwords on the flash drives, the office is considering it a breach and not just a loss. Had Elections Ontario been using backup tape instead of needlessly toting around all that unprotected information, it could have saved the organization and more than 2 million Canadians a massive headache.

An overall problem

Down south in the U.S.A., organizations are still struggling to determine their own backup tape storage and data protection preferences. Police in Pennsylvania are fighting with the ACLU over a disk containing files it claims were lost on an unsecured flash drive that could bear significant financial repercussions for the police department and Philadelphia officials, said The Inquirer. Corruption at any level of business, be it public or private, needs to be rooted out and fixed, but data loss incidents like this could also be giving an unfair look at internal processes that outside viewers may not understand. If these resources are unsecured, it could result in an unnecessary headache for all parties involved.

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