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Almost 70% of UK retailers have lost important data, and 22% have been hacked: study

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Almost 70% of UK retailers have lost important data, a new survey suggests, while more than a fifth say their company has been hacked at some point.

Information management company Crown Records Management and Censuswide surveyed 408 IT decision makers working in companies with at least 200 employees. Seventy-two of them were from retail businesses, of whom almost 70% said their company had previously lost important data.

The study, carried out in April, is released at a time that data breaches have been firmly in the headlines. This summer’s cyber attack on Carphone Warehouse endangered the personal information of up to 2.4m customers, while outside retail the hack of infidelity website Ashley Madison led to the resignation of its chief executive following the publication of its customers’ details on the internet.

This week’s publication of the figures suggests that of the near 70% of retailers that had lost important data, 15% had done so between four and six times, and 8% between 10 and 12 times. Meanwhile, 22% said their company had been hacked, and almost half knew someone whose computer had been hacked. That’s the highest across the sectors covered by the study.

Ann Sellar, business development manager at Crown Records Management, said: “These survey results should be a wake-up call for UK businesses, and especially those in the retail sector, because the importance of protecting customer data is higher than ever. Not only because of potential fines for data breaches (which will soon increase when the EU General Data Protection Regulation is ratified) but also because of growing public awareness.

“It takes on average 20 years to build a reputation but just five minutes to ruin it with a data breach and then up to two years to rebuild it. So businesses need to look at the way they protect their information, understand where the threats are and start putting robust processes in place to protect their customers. If they don’t I can only see the number of data breaches increasing in the next few years.”

Among other findings, 15% of IT decision makers in the sector said they had left sensitive documents somewhere and 17% said they had lost sensitive documents.

Sellar added: “Overall the figures are worrying but not surprising – although hacking is big news we estimate 80% of data breaches come from human error. It is encouraging to see the lower numbers of those in the retail sector being careless with sensitive data.

“However, all businesses need to ensure they are doing everything they can to reduce this risk through staff training, robust procedures and working with approved, specialist suppliers to give them the best chance of protecting their data.”

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