School in Oldham loses unencrypted Laptop: breaches Data Protection Act

A School in Oldham has breached the Data Protection Act after the theft of an unencrypted laptop from a teacher’s car, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

The laptop contained personal information relating to 90 pupils at the school.

The school reported the breach to the ICO in January after an unencrypted laptop was stolen from the boot of a teacher’s car when parked at their home overnight. The ICO’s enquiries found that the school was unaware of the need to encrypt portable and mobile storage devices, although it did have a policy in place informing staff that storage devices should not be kept in cars when away from the school premises.

The Head Teacher of Freehold Community School has signed an undertaking to ensure that portable and mobile devices including laptops and other portable media used to store and transmit personal data are encrypted using encryption software which meets the current standard or equivalent.

Staff will also be trained on how to follow the schools policy for the storage and use of personal data and the school has agreed that its policies on data protection and IT security issues will be appropriately and regularly monitored.

The ICO has produced guidance for schools, colleges and other educational institutions explaining their obligations under the Data Protection Act which can be found on the ICO website here.