Law firm warns of increased data security risk from home working

Companies face an increased risk of data breaches and heavy fines because of staff working from home, a law firm has warned.

Lindsays, the Edinburgh headquartered firm said that businesses should take action to reduce the threat.

They said that employees must be reminded of their obligation to ensure that confidential data is not disclosed, with training and the proper remote IT access security infrastructure put in place where needed.

Unintended potential risks can come from visitors to their home or those they share properties with simply seeing information on computer screens or from paperwork sitting out.

Data protection breaches can be met with financial penalties or sanctions from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Kate Wyatt, a partner and employment law specialist at Lindsays, said: “The potential increased threat of data breaches from home working is a real one, which businesses cannot afford to ignore.

“The nature of how we went into lockdown means this may have been overlooked as employees moved out of offices, but with home working a long-term – or permanent – prospect for a great many, employers need to take hold of this issue immediately.

“As home working becomes more normalised, I doubt the ICO will look any differently at breaches because of the circumstances in which it started. They will simply ask why employers have not got their house in order.

“The ICO undertook in April to adopt a ‘pragmatic and empathetic’ approach to compliance because of the exceptional circumstances.

“As time goes on, and with home working set to continue, the circumstances are arguably no longer exceptional.

“It’s important that employers show that they have taken all reasonable steps to stop data breaches from happening. They must remind employees about the need for IT and physical security.”

GDPR sets a maximum fine of almost £18m or four per cent of a company’s annual global turnover – whichever is greater – for infringements.

Confidentiality is one of a number of key areas in which employers must take action amid increased home working.

Others include monitoring performance management and working hours.

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