Data protection

Nearly a quarter of office workers in the West Midlands who have mishandled sensitive information have lost their job

Office workers in the West Midlands have experienced the most serious consequences from the mishandling of sensitive information at work, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) admitting to having lost their job as a result of their mistake.

The national survey, commissioned by information security specialist Shred-it, found that 13 per cent of workers in the West Midlands had made a catastrophic error at work by leaving sensitive information lying around or losing something important.

Furthermore, 42 per cent of West Midlands-based workers admitted that their company had lost money or customers as a result of their losing private or sensitive information, compared with 25 per cent in the North West, 36 per cent in the North East and 26 per cent in the South West.

When asked if they had reported the loss of sensitive data to their company, 23 per cent of West Midlands workers said they had, whereas this figure was higher in other key regions, including 35 per cent in the North West, 38 per cent in the South East and 55 per cent in London.

The research also looked at the most common workplace errors, and revealed that 30 per cent of workers in the West Midlands had copied in the wrong person to an email, while 38 per cent had left their computer screen unlocked while they were away from their desk, leaving them and their company exposed to a potential data breach.

Ian Osborne, VP UK & Ireland for Shred-it, commented: “This survey shows the different attitudes to handling sensitive information at work and when travelling to and from the office between workers across different regions of the UK. It is interesting to see that nearly a quarter of workers from the West Midlands had experienced the most extreme consequence of losing their job as a result of mishandling sensitive information at work.

“It’s all too easy to leave a laptop open without password protection or to throw sensitive documents in the bin, however these seemingly small errors can have serious repercussions, both for companies and their employees, no matter where they are located, potentially resulting in hefty fines or – as we have seen - even job losses. 

“Companies must have strict policies on data protection that are communicated clearly to all employees and updated whenever necessary, to avoid potential breaches and to ensure compliance at all levels. Data protection is an important element to all businesses and one that cannot be ignored.” 

Top 25 workplace mistakes for West Midlands

  • Leaving your computer screen unlocked when you are away from your desk 
  • Copying in the wrong person to an email 
  • Referring to someone by the wrong name 
  • Leaving people’s numbers written down on your desk 
  • Telling colleagues your email or computer passwords 
  • Accidentally replying all to an email not meant for everyone else 
  • Working in a public place where people can read your emails 
  • Leaving sensitive information on your desk 
  • Working in a public place where other people can overhear potentially confidential information 
  • Storing work documents on your computer at home 
  • Keeping your passwords on a post-it on your computer monitor 
  • Leaving accounts information lying around on your desk 
  • Leaving sensitive information on the printer 
  • Sending a client sensitive company information, they weren’t meant to see 
  • Putting people’s CV’s into the bin/ recycling instead of shredding it 
  • Having a really obvious password (e.g. ‘password’, ‘1234’ etc) 
  • Not having a password for your work emails 
  • Posting a photo on social media that had sensitive work information - like your computer screen - in the background 
  • Sending a client another’s client’s sensitive information 
  • Sending a private message on a messenger platform such as Skype or Gchat to the wrong person 
  • Not having a passcode on your work phone 
  • Accidentally saying ‘love you’ at the end of a phone call 
  • Losing your company phone 
  • Losing the company credit card
  • Not having a password for your work computer 

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