What detailed measures should a UK consultancy adopt to secure client data?

As you navigate the complex world of running a consultancy in the UK, one aspect you can't afford to ignore is the security of your client's personal data. In the digital age, data is the new gold, and with it comes the need for rigorous protection measures.

A 2022 survey by the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport found that almost half of businesses reported having cybersecurity breaches or attacks in the past year. This article explores the various steps that your consultancy should take to secure client data and comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law that governs data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area.

Understanding The Role of GDPR in Data Protection

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a framework enacted by the European Union to protect the personal data of its citizens. The law came into effect on May 25, 2018, and applies to all businesses, including consultancies that process the personal data of EU residents.

The GDPR holds businesses accountable for how they handle personal data. It ensures that data processing is done transparently, limiting the use of data to the reasons it was collected, and that these reasons are communicated to the person whose data is being collected. This law also gives individuals more access to their own data and allows them to correct inaccuracies.

As a consultancy, understanding and abiding by the stipulations of the GDPR is not only a legal requirement but also a display of respect for clients' privacy rights. It's a crucial first step in establishing robust data security measures.

Data Controllers and Data Processors

The GDPR categorizes businesses that handle personal data into two groups: data controllers and data processors. A data controller determines why and how personal data is processed, while a data processor is responsible for processing personal data on behalf of the controller.

In the context of a consultancy, you are likely a data controller. You will need to ensure that all data processing practices within your organisation comply with GDPR. This includes ensuring that any third-party data processors you use, such as cloud services, also adhere to these standards.

This means your consultancy should have clear contracts in place with any third-party providers, outlining their responsibilities in handling your clients' personal data. This ensures a level of accountability and forms part of the GDPR's focus on 'privacy by design and by default'.

Implementing Data Security Measures

Once you have a grasp of the GDPR and your role within it, it's time to implement the necessary data security measures. This includes robust cyber security systems that protect against unauthorised access, data breaches, and other forms of data theft.

A well-rounded cybersecurity strategy should include firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption for data both at rest and in transit. Regular security audits and risk assessments should also be undertaken to identify potential vulnerabilities.

Additionally, physical security measures should not be overlooked. These include secure locations for servers and backups and access control measures for these areas.

Educating Employees About Data Protection

Data security is not just about the systems you have in place, but also about the people who have access to that data. Your employees play a critical role in maintaining data privacy.

Providing regular training on data protection and cybersecurity should be part of your consultancy's strategy. This will help to create a culture of privacy and security within your organisation.

Education should focus on recognising potential security risks, such as phishing attempts, and on proper data handling practices. This includes understanding the need for secure passwords, the risks of unsecured networks, and the importance of regularly updating and patching systems.

Preparing for Data Breaches

Despite your best efforts, it's crucial to prepare for the possibility of a data breach. The GDPR requires that the relevant public authorities are notified within 72 hours of becoming aware of a data breach.

Moreover, in certain circumstances, you will need to inform the affected individuals. This requires having an incident response plan in place, detailing who is responsible for responding to breaches, and the steps that will be taken to mitigate the breach, including how and when customers will be notified.

In conclusion, data security is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach. Understanding and complying with GDPR, implementing robust cybersecurity measures, training your employees, and having a plan in place for potential data breaches are all crucial steps in securing your clients' data.

##Cloud Computing and Data Security

In the modern digital age, consultancy firms often utilise cloud computing to store and process data. The cloud offers significant advantages in terms of cost, scalability, and flexibility. However, storing personal data in the cloud also introduces potential security risks that need to be managed effectively.

For data protection purposes, cloud service providers are considered third-party data processors under the GDPR. As a data controller, it's your consultancy's responsibility to ensure that any cloud service provider you use meets the necessary data protection standards. This is important as per Article 28 of the GDPR, which stipulates that a processor must provide sufficient guarantees to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to meet the requirements of the GDPR.

Overlooking this requirement could lead to significant penalties. Therefore, when choosing a cloud service provider, be sure to undertake a thorough security assessment. You should verify their compliance with GDPR and other relevant data protection laws, and ensure that they have proper security measures in place to protect data. This could include encryption, two-factor authentication, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits.

Furthermore, it's crucial to have a clear and detailed contract with your cloud provider that defines their responsibilities and expectations, particularly around data breach responses, data backup, and recovery.

Complying with Data Subject Rights

Under the GDPR, individuals, also referred to as data subjects, have several rights related to their personal data. These include the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to rectification, the right to erasure (‘right to be forgotten’), the right to restrict processing, the right to data portability, the right to object, and rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling.

As a consultancy, it's crucial to have systems in place to respond to data subject requests within the GDPR's prescribed timeframe. This generally means within one month of receiving the request. You should have clear procedures for verifying the identity of the person making the request to prevent unauthorised access to data.

In line with the right to be informed, the consultancy should also have a clear and understandable privacy policy that outlines how customer data is collected, used, stored, and protected. This policy should be readily accessible to clients at all times.

Moreover, remember that in some cases, such as when data processing is based on consent, data subjects have the right to withdraw consent at any time. You should have processes in place to promptly stop processing data if consent is withdrawn.


Ensuring data protection is a priority for consultancies in the UK. By understanding the principles of the GDPR, implementing strong cyber security measures, educating employees, working effectively with third-party processors, and respecting the rights of data subjects, you can protect your clients' sensitive data and build trust with them.

While this process may seem daunting, it's worth remembering that the investment in data security not only preserves your reputation and client relationships but also helps to avoid hefty fines and penalties that can result from non-compliance. Ultimately, securing your client's personal data should be seen as an essential part of your consultancy's values and operations, rather than just a legal obligation.