ICO fires warning to legal professionals following 'troubling' number of data breaches

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The UK’s personal privacy watchdog has fired a warning to barristers and solicitors following a spate of data protection breaches by attorneys.

In an article, the ICO composed that 15 incidents involving legal professionals breaching the Data Security Act (DPA) have been reported in the last 3 months.

A severe breach of the DPA can check barristers and lawyers individually fined approximately ₤ 500,000 – the exact same optimum charge that can be applied to companies and public authorities. According to the ICO, it can be served following a breach supplied that the event ‘had the prospective to cause considerable damage or considerable distress to affected individuals’.

The DPA classes barristers and solicitors as information controllers in their own right, meaning they’re legitimately responsible for any personal information they process, which is typically of a highly delicate nature.

Amplified risk

The threat of an information breach is greater for attorneys due to their tendency to carry around big amounts of details between court and in the house, which can enhance the risk of a data breach.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: ‘The variety of breaches reported by barristers and solicitors couldn’t seem that high, but given the sensitive info they handle, and the reality that it’s frequently held in paper files instead of protected by any kind of encryption, that number is bothering.

‘It’s important that we sound the alarm at an early stage to ensure this trouble is attended to prior to a barrister or lawyer is left counting the financial and reputational damage of a significant data breach.

‘We’ve published some top pointers to assist barristers and lawyers take care of the personal information they manage. These measures will certainly set them on the roadway to compliance and help them get the basics right.’

Top tips

The ICO has published a series of ‘leading pointers’ for lawyers to ensure any personal details they manage is kept protected. They are: