Heathrow Airport has been fined £120,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for “serious” data protection failings.

It comes after a staff member lost a USB stick last October containing “sensitive personal data”, which was later found by a member of the public.

Reports at the time claimed this included the Queen’s security and travel arrangements, although the ICO would not confirm this.

Heathrow said it regretted the breach.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the memory stick, which contained 76 folders and more than 1,000 files, was not encrypted or password-protected.

It said only a small amount of files contained “sensitive” information, including a training video that exposed the names, dates of birth and passport numbers of 10 people. Personal data of up to 50 Heathrow aviation security personnel was also revealed.

Instances like these show the need for a robust data backup routine that removes the need for data to be transported on USB sticks or similar. Heathrow could have easily avoided this data breach by ensuring its data was backed up automatically.

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