The extent of the healthcare sector’s problem with data breaches has been revealed by a survey which suggests a quarter of IT workers in the industry aren’t reporting them to senior management or the appropriate authorities.

Data breaches have hit the news already in 2017 with high profile cases such as mobile phone company Three – where an employee’s password was stolen in March and the data of 200,000 customers compromised. Then in April, cybercriminals seized 250,000 customer records at Wonga – including bank account details.

However, it seems these reports may be only the beginning.
The Crown Records Management Survey, undertaken by Censuswide, polled 408 IT decision makers in companies of between 100 and 1,000 employees across the country.

It provided some shocking results which suggest many of the UK’s data breaches are going unreported. Some of the statistics for the healthcare sector are below, with mixed results:

Almost one in five have delayed reporting a breach themselves.
One in 10 know someone in their company who has failed to report a data breach.
But just one in 20 don’t know who to report a breach to – the lowest among any of the surveyed sectors.

Statistics really are shocking

“Some of these statistics really are shocking and suggest that data breaches may be far more common and widespread than many people realise. The frequency of data breaches is especially worrying in a sector such as healthcare, which handles large quantities of sensitive patient data,” says Dominic Johnstone, Head of Information Management at Crown Records Management. “These results also indicate a culture inside many companies and institutions that the best response to a breach is to ignore it or keep it quiet.

“Perhaps this comes from a fear of the loss of reputation which can be experienced when breaches are publicised. Or perhaps it is simply down to lack of a clear procedures and information management. Either way, the implications are serious, and the fact still remains that data breaches must legally be reported within 72 hours.”

New legislation, such as the UK Data Bill and the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force in May 2018, include measures to tackle data breaches.

The latter will bring in huge fines for businesses which suffer breaches because of poor compliance. It also sets a strict timeframe for the reporting of breaches – with fines for those who do not meet them.

“It is absolutely vital that businesses tackle this culture of secrecy because in future unprotected data loss will simply not be acceptable,” Johnstone says. “In fact, it shouldn’t be acceptable now.

“Having a clear data protection and information management programme in place is vital for businesses to avoid these kinds of problems. It should be very clear who is responsible for reporting breaches and who they should be reported to.

“Until businesses grasp how much a breach can cost them – both financially and in terms of reputation – this problem is not going to go away.”