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Your personal information is at risk during the coronavirus pandemic

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Hayes Connor has raised concerns about a potential increase in data breaches during the coronavirus pandemic. Primarily, our expert data breach solicitors believe that personal information is at risk in four different ways.

An increase in phishing emails and coronavirus scams

Hayes Connor has warned people to be on their guard in case of coronavirus scams and phishing messages. Earlier this week, it was discovered that fraudsters were going door-to-door pretending to offer coronavirus tests. But, it's not just doorstep criminals we need to look out for.According to Action Fraud, coronavirus scams have cost victims over £800k in just one month.

Find out more about this, and how to protect yourself from coronavirus scams here.

An increase in coronavirus apps

As the UK enters a period of full lockdown, a number of Covid-19 apps have been launched, one promises to check users' symptoms remotely and to provide the latest guidance, while another seeks to help researchers identify hotspots and non-typical symptoms.

This follows similar apps being launched in other countries including Taiwan which is utilising technology during the global pandemic to monitor quarantined users' movements, alerting the police if they leave their homes.

Talking about this, Kingsley Hayes, our managing director and data protection expert, said:

"Technological innovation during this unprecedented period of crisis may help official health organisations learn more about the coronavirus contributing to the global effort to contain and tackle the disease.

"Caution should be taken by users however, in relation to how personal information such as gender, age, medical information and location will be stored, processed and shared. At a time of crisis, these and other developments will be introduced quickly and will likely be adopted rapidly by the general public as we all come to terms with significant disruption.

"The organisations behind the apps should be transparent about how the collected confidential data will be used, stored and shared both during the pandemic and after.

"While technological advancements mean that some have been able to respond quickly to the crisis by introducing apps which may prove helpful, protecting confidential data - even in times of crisis - should remain a priority."

An increase in human error - the leading cause of data breaches

As the coronavirus situation escalates, we are all feeling more anxious than usual. Human error is the greatest cause of data breaches at the best of times, so it is to be expected that such instances might increase when people are worried and confused.

For example, when sending out an email to residents to inform them of changes to services during the coronavirus outbreak, Watford Community Housing Trust inadvertently leaked the personal details of 3,545 tenants. It did this by attaching a spreadsheet containing their highly sensitive and personal data. Watford Community Housing has apologised unreservedly for this breach, but had it implemented some simple security measures (e.g. password controls/encryption on sensitive data), any damage could have been alleviated.

So, while stress and nervousness might explain why someone might make an error, there is no excuse for organisations that do not have robust data security processes in place to prevent such breaches from happening in the first place.

An increase in data breaches due to homeworking

As businesses navigate the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and respond by increasing home and remote working, careful consideration around data security is also paramount.

Kingsley Hayes said:

"Businesses are operating in unchartered waters with no definite future forecast. The impact of the coronavirus crisis will be far-reaching. Commercial survival will rely on the ability of organisations to quickly adapt working practices to keep staff and clients safe while maintaining business as usual.

"Technology facilitates the ease with which many businesses can adapt to employees working remotely however, being mindful of potential data protection risks, and quickly implementing appropriate security measures, should be front of mind.

"The National Cyber Security Centre advises organisations to have a mobile working policy to ensure that all staff are not only aware of the increased risks, but also that all employees adopt the relevant security measures.

"The vast majority of data breaches take place due to human error. Preventing incidents can be as simple as carefully considering the remote working environment. Working from the privacy of home, rather than a public place for example, can reduce the risks.

"Appropriately limiting remote access to and storage of files and information and sending encrypted data, if possible, will also prevent costly data breach incidents. The way in which businesses operate in the current climate has changed however, data protection obligations remain the same."

What to do if you are the victim of a personal information breach

If you want to claim compensation following a data breach, Hayes Connor can help. Our professional, friendly team will be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

We also understand that making a compensation claim can be stressful; especially where sensitive information is already breached. So, we remove the jargon and make sure you always know what's happening with your case.

The UK's leading data breach law firm, we may be able to act for you on a NO WIN, NO FEE basis - so you have nothing to lose.

Register to tell us about how a data breach has affected you. Or contact us on 0151 363 5895*.

*Read our coronavirus statement to find out more about how we are continuing to serve our clients during the COVID-19 outbreak.