The UK division of insurance provider Zurich has lost the details of 51,000 general insurance customers after losing a back-up tape in South Africa. The company said its investigation into the loss of the tape had “revealed deficiencies in the management of data tape security procedures”.
“We take the security of our customers’ data very seriously. What has happened is unacceptable to us,” said Annette Court, CEO of Zurich’s European General Insurance Financial Services group. “Protecting our customers’ interest is at the top of our agenda. We are putting a great deal of investment into strengthening our internal processes to ensure that incidents of this nature do not happen again in the future.”
Zurich has sent letters to affected customers and appointing auditors KPMG to conduct an investigation into the matter.
Jamie Cowper, marketing director of data encryption firm PGP, observed that Zurich’s loss highlighted issues of cross-border movement of sensitive customer data.
“Zurich UK’s customers might be surprised to hear that their data is being kept in South Africa, a country which is yet to pass its equivalent of the Data Protection Act,” he said, adding that “global trends around data outsourcing mean that confidential customer data could be held absolutely anywhere.”
“Whilst Zurich has been keen to downplay any assertion that the data could be compromised, unless the tape is recovered it is impossible to be sure. Who can predict what will become of this data in a few months or even a few years’ time?”