NI: Four in five NI businesses fear data security breach

Pictured (l-r): Ken McDonald, Ann McGregor, Laura Gillespie, and Marian Cree
Pictured (l-r): Ken McDonald, Ann McGregor, Laura Gillespie, and Marian Cree

A data security breach is the biggest corporate crisis threat to Northern Ireland businesses, according to a new poll by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Pinsent Masons.

More than four fifths (83 per cent) of businesses that responded to the survey said a breakdown in information security was the corporate crisis they feared the most, beating out health and safety accidents, bribery allegations, and environmental breaches.

The survey results were revealed at a joint Interactive Crisis Workshop run by the NI Chamber and Pinsent Masons.

More than 70 attendees were guided through real-life scenarios in a group session before discussing how their organisation would deal with threats. Members of Pinsent Masons’ compliance team were on hand to provide practical advice.

Attendees also heard from Ken McDonald, the assistant information commissioner for NI, and Marian Cree, NI representative for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Mr McDonald and Ms Cree spoke about how organisations can minimise the risk of a crisis unfolding, as well as the latest key policy developments.

Laura Gillespie, litigation and regulatory partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “Obviously data breaches generate considerable headlines, as we have seen in recent times with the TalkTalk example. The expanding role of e-commerce and big data in businesses of all shapes and sizes could also be factor in bringing this to the fore.

“As Northern Ireland’s only full-service international firm we have the experience and knowledge to support clients with the specialised services required when the worst happens. Although there are a wide variety of incidents that can hit a business, the response to minimise the impact follows common principles.

“Our event highlighted the critical importance of having an Incident Response Plan, and maintaining it through regular review and preparation.”

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, added: “The digital economy is growing which is why businesses remain an attractive target for cyber-attacks. Businesses should take this threat seriously in order to not only protect themselves but also their customers’ data.

“All businesses, irrespective of size, should have a robust, fully tried and tested and regularly revised contingency plan in place. Planning is important for small businesses especially since they often lack the resources to cope easily in a crisis.

“Failure to plan could be disastrous - at best you risk losing business whilst you recover from the crisis – or at worst your business may never recover and may ultimately cease trading.”

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