UK public trusts financial services sector to keep personal data safe, survey reveals

The UK financial services sector is the most trusted, ahead of the public sector and online retailers, according to Symantec’s inaugural UK Trust Index.

The UK financial services sector is the most trusted, ahead of the public sector and online retailers, according to Symantec's inaugural UK Trust Index.

More than half of the more than 2,000 respondents gave banks and building societies a high score in the Trust Index, designed to reflect which sectors the public trust most to keep personal data safe.

The study, carried out by YouGov, asked respondents to give a trust score of between 1 and 7 for the financial services, online retail, public sector, online communities, publishing and gaming sectors.

Financial services emerged as the only industry that the majority of respondents trust with their personal information, with 10% saying they completely trusted financial organisations to keep their information confidential.

More than a quarter of respondents gave the public sector a trust score of three or less, and 58% said they were either unsure or untrusting of online retailers.

"It is clear that businesses that handle personal information have an issue with consumer trust," said Siân John, security strategist at Symantec.

The amount of information firms handle each day is growing at an astonishing rate, so they cannot afford to be seen as untrustworthy when dealing with the personal data relating to their customers, she said.

According to John, gaining that confidence is down to having the right security credentials and making sure that no matter where data is stored or how it is accessed, it is demonstrably secure and the right policies are in place to ensure it is not mishandled.

"Protecting the integrity of confidential information is vital, but making it clear to the public that their information is safe is crucial as well," said John.

Security-conscious online retailers need to differentiate themselves from bogus sites, she said. The public are increasingly looking for signs that a retailer is proactive about security, such as trust seals that show that an organisation is what it says it is and has passed a rigorous malware scan.

The study found that online communities, online publishers and the online gaming industry had the lowest levels of trust.

On average, nearly 60% of respondents gave those industries a trust score of three or below. Online communities such as social networking sites and forums were rated the most untrustworthy, with 38% of respondents saying they could not trust the industry with their personal information at all.

"It is clear that social networking sites, the gaming industry and the publishing community aren't doing enough to assure the public that their personal information is safe and secure," said John.

As these industries increasingly become more monetised, they will be handling more sensitive data, so it is vital that they avoid being left red-faced as a result of serious data breaches, she said.

"Having strong data protection that is clearly communicated will give consumers peace of mind and help to improve an industry's trust score," said John.

Data protection best practices

  • Always process information correctly and assess the risks associated with different types of confidential information

  • Educate employees on information protection policies and procedures and ensure that training is regularly refreshed to include the latest compliance regulations

  • Implement an integrated security solution that protects information on all endpoints, not just desktop terminals

  • Make sure your organisation has disaster recovery and data loss prevention technology in place at all times

  • Proactively encrypt mobile devices to minimise the consequences of a lost device

  • Implement two-factor authentication and strong password policies to minimise the risk of lost or stolen devices


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