Friday, 22 August 2008

PA Consulting in the news for all the wrong reasons

The headlines today give news of yet another data loss by HM Government. This time a missing memory stick which includes un-encrypted details about 10,000 prolific offenders and data on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales. The data was in encrypted form on-site but was unencrypted by PA Consulting and put on a memory stick. The consequences of this data loss are even more serious than the others as it could literally be a matter of ‘life or death’ if some of this information fell into the wrong hands. Assuming the reports are correct, it does look like a monumental security failure and one that the simplest set of rules should have avoided.

This is seriously bad news for PA Consulting. They have made security into a key part of their business. Indeed they are one of the contractors on the Govt’s ID project where they are a ‘client-side’ adviser to the Home Office. You could legitimately ask if PA Consulting cocks up like this, what confidence can anyone now have in personal data security of any info held by any Govt agency?

PA Consulting is one of the oldest consulting firms – established in 1943 as Personnel Administration. With reference to the current economic downturn, PA Consulting had a very hard time in the last major downturn (1989-1992) and were probably all but bankrupt when Jon Moynihan was appointed as CEO and managed to really turn them around. They were also hit (but not so badly) in the post Y2K downturn too. I’ve reported on several aborted takeover attempts in the last decade. I’ve known of many more companies who have looked at PA Consulting as a possible acquisition target. Well, there are very few private companies of their size left. In the last year, its parent company, PA Holdings recorded a pre-tax profit of £52.5m on revenues of £407m.

Nobody from PA seems willing to talk to the media this morning. I would strongly suggest they get the best PR advice (and quickly) to help them salvage their reputation.

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