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Centralisation, security, and 25m personal account details

The media and online world are buzzing with the news that HMRC have lost discs containing financial details of 25m people. My particular interest is to what extent the centralisation of the database contributed to the problem. If we consider the NPfIT programme for storing medical records, would they be safer in distributed data stores? At first glance, one might think that a security breach in one store would at least be limited to the set of data held there. But those distributed stores would have to be networked and to allow remote queries; would this increase security (by checking for mass requests) or decrease it (because people wouldn't know which remote requests to distrust)?

In the meantime, here are a few URLs to comments that I found interesting. Philip Virgo worries (as do I) about those organisations that cover up their breaches rather than report them. David Lacey argues that certification of security practices is required to make sure policies are followed. On a related note, the UK's information commisionner is calling for his office to have powers to inspect and fine organistions for failing to properly protect personal data. Finally, Ross Anderson's rather trenchant comment includes several links that are relevant to security practices in the UK government.

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