Dubai, 2 November 2016
– The focus on digital data protection is putting traditional paper records in the UAE at risk from theft, according to a leading expert. Additionally, new European Union data protection legislation will have wide-ranging implications for businesses in the UAE, he warned, especially those in healthcare and hospitality.
“The cost of a data breach is huge, yet companies here often overlook the risk posed by simple paper records sent for recycling,” said Neil Percy, Vice President, Market Development and Integration EMEA at Shred-it, the world leader in secure document and data shredding.
He told a meeting of business leaders in Dubai today that the average cost of a data breach across the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2016 is $4.61 million, and the cost of lost business through a data breach is $1.96 million – the second-highest in the world. *
Percy said that there is strong general awareness in the UAE of the need for recycling paper and other materials, prompted by strong government-led information and initiatives. “However, the UAE recycling industry processes and recycles very little material within the country borders,” he said. “Consequently vast quantities of paper for recycling are exported every day to less secure countries throughout Asia and beyond, wherever the best price can be achieved.”
The exported paper inevitably contains high levels of readable data that are sensitive, either commercially or to private individuals, he said. “The majority of organisations are unaware of these unintended breaches of the UAE’s data protection policies and laws, and that situation is about to become more serious with the advent of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into effect in May 2018,” Percy said.
He said the GDPR extends the territorial scope of European data protection law to include any organisation processing data while offering goods or services to people who are in the EU. Violations for non-compliance could result in penalties of up to four percent of the organisation’s worldwide revenue or 20 million euros, whichever is greater.
“The impact for companies in this region could be enormous,” Percy said. “It’s time to focus not only on digital data protection but also on paper records. Recycling isn’t enough; companies need to make sure that their ‘waste’ paper is securely shredded first. It should not be considered as ‘waste’ until all confidential information is rendered unreadable. Even having shredders isn’t necessarily enough to make you compliant, since almost one fifth of breaches are caused by human error.
“Companies need a full audit of their information security systems and to implement best practices, such as having a clean-desk policy. Knowledge of best practices and legislative compliance for digital data far exceeds that of printed material, but the law applies to both equally. The company that discloses confidential data via a paper breach is just as guilty as one that loses data via a digital breach.”
He said the UAE’s focus on developing healthcare tourism and general tourism puts the healthcare and hospitality sectors on the front line in the battle against data theft. “Healthcare tops the industry table for data losses,” he said. “And the danger is growing: that $4.61 million figure for the average cost of a data breach is up from $3.8 million in 2015 and $3.11 million in 2014.”
Percy said he was hopeful that in its position as a global business hub the UAE would work towards benchmark data protection standards by EXPO 2020 and align itself with global best practices, beyond the existing regulations.
*Source: 2016 Cost of a Data Breach Study: Global Analysis,
Ponemon Institute LLC
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