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  • Tax ‘super-computer’ snooped on by council staff

    Posted on April 5th, 2009 admin No comments

    It would appear that the problems associated with huge computer databases and just who has access to them are not going to go away. An article in Computing has highlighted the security issues around massive computerised databases that have thousands of access points.

    The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) which controls the £72m Customer Information System (CIS) has a database of 92 million tax and benefit records made available to 80,000 DWP employees, 60,000 workers from other government departments, and staff from 445 local authorities.

    CIS holds information on anybody with a national insurance number, including where they live, their ethnicity, and their tax status.

    Following a Freedom of Information request it has emerged that in the six months to January 2009, six DWP employees were disciplined for “inappropriate use” of the system.

    In the same period, local authorities were obliged to carry out internal investigations eight times after being notified by DWP that CIS had been accessed inappropriately.
    These 14 incidents were in just six months. Last month, the department admitted that since August 2006, 33 local authority staff have been confirmed as accessing records “without business justification”.

    The DWP became so concerned about instances of unjustified access that in January it sent out a memo to authorities warning them that the practice must stop.

    “Anyone found to be abusing CIS may face sanctions ranging from disciplinary action to prosecution,” read the memo. “DWP will support your local authority to ensure appropriate disciplinary or prosecution action is taken, and may consider prosecuting directly under social security legislation.”

    Read the full article here.