General Election 2015: Voters' data at risk in almost half of London councils

Almost half of London councils could be putting voters' data at risk by failing to test their disaster recovery procedures, Freedom of Information request responses have revealed.

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Electoral register data is potentially at risk in almost half of London councils, according to responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Although all London boroughs have disaster recovery procedures in place, 40 percent of them have not tested them in the last 12 months, according to FOI requests submitted by disaster recovery specialists Databarracks.

The requests found huge variations in recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives. Most councils said they expected to recover electoral data within 24 hours but some said they were happy to wait as long as seven days, or in one case up to two weeks.

The local authorities who responded to the FOI request also classified the importance of the electoral register very differently. Some designated it as a ‘Priority 1’ system needed the fastest recovery possible, others didn’t assign it any prioritisation and some did not include the register on their continuity list at all.

Managing director Peter Groucutt said it was “worrying” such an “alarmingly high number” of councils have forgone testing, especially given the general election is just two days away.

He added that without proper testing, authorities disaster recovery plans “could be proved useless at their time of need”. Experts recommend organisations perform a disaster recovery test at least once a year.

“If they haven’t tested their DR capabilities, they really have no idea of how they’d cope should disaster strike at the very time that would cause most damage. With just a couple of days before the election, realistically there isn’t time to test systems now.

“For government bodies dealing with such vast amounts of sensitive data, it really is paramount to ensure they’re ready in future. All of the boroughs we spoke to have good backup and disaster recovery policies in place, but now it’s time to put them to the test and make sure they really work,” Groucutt added.

Of requests sent to 32 councils, three did not respond and two refused to answer.

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