Once again 2015 proves to be the year of the data breach. Or maybe 2.4 million Dixons Carphone records going missing is just an example of the new normal. But then again none of this is new, and data breaches and loss of critical data has been with us for as long as data has. So here’s a bit of historical perspective.

When I started as a consultant back in the 1980s one of the first assignments I worked on was for the old Dixons group. They had found out that at least one competitor had been getting hold of their prize data assets – at that time it was a Sales Report that had all their product lines, what was the cost of each item, the retail price, how many they sold and in which shop they sold them. Remember, in the 80’s retailers did not have good customer information and this Sales Report was the crown jewels.

Of course, it was printed on paper and bound before being distributed, but some things never change. In the end the breach turned out to be an insider who was selling monthly Sales Reports on. As a junior consultant my job was to compile a list of everyone who got the report. But the thing that really struck in my mind was that the majority of people who received the report didn’t really use it. It was more an indication of how important they were. So really a chronic lack of least privilege discipline leading to serious data breaches – nothing new under the sun.

A recent report from the Ponemon Institute reports that 71% of staff think they have access to company data they should probably not see. So what’s the answer? Well at idax towers we believe that traditional manager reviews are failing. What we and an increasingly large numbers of clients think is that manager intervention supported by analytic context and insight is the answer. Of course Dixons in the 1980s had an excuse for data breaches. They didn’t have the tools to enforce least privilege. But in the 2010s there’s really no excuse.