Carphone Warehouse has received one of the highest fines by the ICO after putting it’s clients’ personal data at risk.
The UK privacy watchdog – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) warns that more stringent data protection laws will apply from 25 May 2018, with potentially much greater fines.The Information
According to the ICO, the personal data at Carphone Warehouse was exposed in a cyber attack because of the company’s failure to protect the data from unauthorised access.
The compromised customer data included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, marital status and, for more than 18,000 customers, historical payment card details.
The records for some Carphone Warehouse employees, including name, phone numbers, postcode and car registration, were also exposed.
In determining the monetary penalty, the ICO considered that the personal data involved would significantly affect individuals’ privacy, leaving their data at risk of being misused.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that a company as large, well resourced and established as Carphone Warehouse should have been actively assessing its data security systems and ensuring that systems were robust and not vulnerable to such attacks.
“Carphone Warehouse should be at the top of its game when it comes to cyber security, and it is concerning that the systemic failures we found related to rudimentary, commonplace measures,” said Denham.
Following a detailed investigation, the ICO identified multiple inadequacies in Carphone Warehouse’s approach to data security and determined that the company had failed to take adequate steps to protect the personal information.
Using valid login credentials, intruders were able to access the system via an out of date version of WordPress software.
The incident also exposed inadequacies in the organisation’s technical security measures. The ICO said important elements of the software in use on the systems affected were out of date and the company had failed to carry out routine security testing.
The ICO said its investigation had revealed a serious contravention of Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires appropriate technical and organisational measures to be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
According to Denham, the real victims are customers and employees whose information was open to abuse by the malicious actions of the intruder.
“The law says it is the company’s responsibility to protect customer and employee personal information,” she said. “Outsiders should not be getting to such systems in the first place. Having an effective layered security system will help to mitigate any attack – systems can’t be exploited if intruders can’t get in.
“There will always be attempts to breach organisations’ systems and cyber attacks are becoming more frequent as adversaries become more determined. But companies and public bodies need to take serious steps to protect systems and, most importantly, customers and employees.”
From 25 May this year, the law will get more stringent as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline is reached, the ICO said.
Data protection by design is one of the GDPR’s requirements, the regulator said, and must be in every part of information processing, from the hardware and software to the procedures, guidelines, standards and polices that an organisation has or should have.
Companies and public bodies should ensure strong IT governance and information security measures are in place, tested and refreshed to comply with the provisions of the law, the ICO said.
Failure to comply with the GDPR requirements will put companies at risk of fines of up to €20m or 4% of their global annual turnover.
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