Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Security ? What Security ?

Don't give a second's thought to the recent news that disks containing the personal details for every Child Benefit claimant in the UK has gone missing. If you spend your life around data like I do, you'd never have assumed it was safe in the first place.

I have in my time had access to billing records, payment details, dates of birth and passwords for a number of large companies. I had innumerable opportunities to download them and walk out the door with them, but I'm fundamentally honest and am anyway clueless about how you'd turn them into money. Set up false identities, I suppose.

The thing is, there were many techies like me with god-like access to all data, and a large number of low-paid call-centre workers with scary-enough access to the data. Heck, even the cleaners at one Utility I worked for could have helped themselves to one of the CDs an ex-colleague of mine had on his desk, helpfully marked "Customer Database Backup".

I believe you should live your life as though every piece of information about you is public-domain. Because frankly, that's probably the case. Your bank details are known to any number of people you pay DDs to - not to mention your bank and their offshore call centres and their offshore IT support. Somewhere along the line, someone who got their job because they were the cheapest available will have access to your details. Might as well put it on a screen in Times Squares.

And then there are fraudsters and good, if incompetent, people who screw up and lose your data in the post.

So how can I be so unworried ?

(1) My bank password is secure
(2) Stanetta's Child Benefit is paid into a tiny account we set up specially for the purpose
(3) If criminals had this information they would already have attempted to fleece a few milliion people. It wouldn't suit their purposes to wait and let the data become obsolete. Where's the evidence this has happened ?

The people I feel sorry for are those that are getting their Child Benefit paid into their Northern Rock bank accounts ...

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