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Police polled on data leaks

A lack of data protection is the biggest threat to the general operation of police forces, not from a lack of resources as many may think. This is the according to research by a digital security firm. Over a third (35pc) of police employees polled cited data leaks as being the biggest threat, with lack of resources in second place at 32pc.

NIne in ten, 91pc of police employees who responded have access to sensitive information, and given their responses above clearly recognise the risks posed by its misuse. In light of this, it is surprising to learn that over half (55pc) of police employees still use a traditional username and password to access sensitive data, despite the increasing susceptibility of passwords to brute force cracking – a service which can now be bought by the hour.

Another concern was identified as the lack of uniformity in security solutions, with one in five respondents (20pc) believing that this is the biggest security threat to the force. If different teams are using different solutions then the solutions are likely to be disjointed and unsynchronised leading to users bypassing security to “just get the job done”. Classically by taping passwords to devices, emailing credentials, logging in colleagues or transporting data by unauthorised means between systems.

Just 11pc of respondents use smart cards to securely access data, yet over half (55pc) of the police force employees surveyed carry between two and four identity and access cards or tokens; it is astonishing that wider use is not made of card technology to deliver high level security with convenience. Officers often find themselves having to access data on several machines and devices and a smart card would allow them to do this securely without adding extra time.

Most police workers are careful and considerate people, but in such a high pressure environment it is inevitable that data accidents do happen. Introducing additional authentication layers to data access can help to ensure that both officers and the public are better protected in the future.

Despite the concerns raised, two thirds of police workers believe that IT systems are more secure than they have ever been, showing that although there are recognized risks and progress to be made to achieve best practice, officials are taking steps in the right direction.

Gemalto surveyed police employees in partnership with Police Oracle magazine. 268 people responded. Participants’ roles ranged from assistant chief constable to firearms instructors, HR workers to head of communications; from all major police forces across the UK.


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