By Chris Williams
25th June 2008
The civil service's systems will be subjected to new attacks by
independent white hat hackers in a bid to spot weaknesses in government
data handling before catastrophic losses occur, it was announced today.
The white hat programme is one of a suite of targets, training and
scrutiny measures that Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell hopes will bring
about a "culture change" across the civil service and restore public
faith in the government's competence in handling sensitive data.
He said: "The risk we must counter is that citizens and business lose
trust in the Government to handle their data effectively. It would be
foolish not to acknowledge that the lapses in data security have
affected this confidence."
O'Donnell revealed the new programme as he published his office's final
report on data handling in government. The internal inquiry ran parallel
to the independent Poynter report, also published on Wednesday .
Both investigations were launched in the wake of a series of government
data losses last year. The blundering run was topped by HMRC's
disappearing unencrypted CDs, which contained 25 million child benefit
records. Poynter looked specifically at the HMRC incident, while the
Cabinet Office report sets a strategy for improving data handling
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