While small IT outages may look bad to customers when they are left queuing at stores, it is the IT problems that go unnoticed — such as data leakages — that actually create the biggest risks.

While small IT outages may look bad to customers when they are left queuing at stores, it is the IT problems that go unnoticed - such as data leakages - that actually create the biggest risks.

Tesco hit the headlines on Monday with a small till outage issue, and the Marks & Spencer whistleblower story was also back in the news.

What’s interesting is how much coverage some of Tesco’s tills being down for a few hours received. While it was no doubt embarrassing for Tesco staff to be unable to serve customers at the main tills in some stores on a Monday morning - and sales in those stores will be down slightly on what could have been achieved - the problem was quickly remedied.

Meanwhile the story about the employment tribunal beginning of the ex-M&S staff member who leaked confidential company information has been more low key. But the issue it raises, of the risks companies face when employees have access to confidential information, is one that the whole industry should take very seriously.

As the Times published the leaked information, M&S was aware that its information had been compromised and was able to track down who had leaked it. And the information that was taken was about changes to redundancy entitlements, but this is not the only type of sensitive information that staff members have access to. Whether it is customer details, sales figures or details of future plans; a retailers’ digital assets are valuable and should be treated as such.

In a survey of Londoners conducted last week by database security company Guardium, 61 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about UK retailers’ ability to protect their personal details, and 16 per cent had been victims of fraud.

While downtime on customer-facing systems isn’t great, the less visible threat to your customers and your reputation is what you really want to avoid.