Data security is relevant to protect intellectual property rights, commercial interests, or to keep sensitive information safe.
Arrangements need to be proportionate to the nature of the data and the risks involved. Data that contain personal information should be treated with higher levels of security than data which do not, as the safeguarding of personal data is dictated by national legislation, the Data Protection Act 2018, which states that personal data should only be accessible to authorised persons. Personal data can be stored in digital files, or can exist in non-digital format: patient records, signed consent forms, interview cover sheets containing names, addresses and signatures.
Security can be made easier by:
Attention to security is also important when data files are to be destroyed.
Security of computer systems and files
Data security and cloud storage
Cloud-based* storage such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud or YouSendIt are easy to use, but not necessarily permanent or secure. Cloud-based storage is usually overseas and, therefore, not subject to UK law, consequently its use could be in violation of the UK Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), which states that personal and sensitive data should not be transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
Cloud data storage should not be used for high-risk information such as files that contain personal or sensitive information or that have a very high intellectual property or commercial value. While file encryption safeguards data files to a certain degree, it does not negate the requirements of the DPA.
Alternatives are secure FTP (SFTP) servers, secure content management systems set up and controlled by an institution or secure workspaces. See our guidance on file sharing.
*Cloud-based, in this context, refers to generic cloud services (often free) where one does not have an individual contract/SLA with the supplier that contains agreed information security standards. An organisation may have their own cloud-based secure storage or contract for the same to be provided by a suitably qualified supplier.