Think W3 Limited

Breach details

What A malicious hacker was able to access significant amounts of customer data, including credit card details, after targeting Think W3 Limited’s website.
How much 1,163,996 records containing credit or debit card details, of which 430,599 were current.
When 21 December 2012.
Why A system intended for internal purposes was installed on the same web-sever as the businesses e-commerce application containing customer data. In order to facilitate working from home this service could be accessed via a login page on a non-customer facing website which was publicly available over the internet. The login page was not secure due to a coding error that was missed, as no security testing had been done the basis that this page was not public facing. The hacker was able to exploit this vulnerability and gain administrative access to all the data on the web server.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Monetary penalty of £150,000
When 23 July 2014.

Why the regulator acted

Breach of act Breach of the Seventh Data Protection Principle: Think W3 limited failed to take appropriate technical measures to ensue the security of personal data, predominately though failing to undertake suitable security testing, due to a failure to understand the extent to which the web server could be accessed via the internet, or to meet PCI DSS compliance requirements.
Known or should have known  By 2011 Think W3 Limited were aware of a number of issues with its PCI  DSS compliance, causing them to review their security practises. However they were slow in implementing improvements, despite being aware of the risk of contravention.
Likely to cause damage or distress Although CCV2 / CvC2 values were not obtained, the data obtained was clearly of interest to the attacker, due to the targeted nature of the attack, and could be used for fraudulent purposes. The data subjects would rightly be distressed to learn that their data had been accessed by a malicious third party.

British Pregnancy Advice Service

Breach details

What A hacker threatened to post the names and call back details of everyone who had submitted their contact details to the BPAS website.
How much 9,900 records.
When 08 March 2012.
Why The BPAS website was originally developed in 2007 and was to include an online ‘appointment booking service’. This was then scrapped due to security concerns, and BPAS mistakenly assumed that no call back data would be retained on the CMS. In 2008 another IT company was asked to host the website, but as BPAS was unaware that it was processing the call back data they did not ensure that administrative passwords were stored securely. BPAS also failed to carry out appropriate security testing so continued to remain ignorant of the website’s vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities enabled an attacker to access the CMS and deface the website, threatening to publish the names of those whose call back details were held on the website. Fortunately, these were not published as the attacker was arrested the following day and the information was recovered following an injunction.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Monetary penalty of £200,000.
When 07 March 2014.

Why the regulator acted

Breach of act Breach of the Seventh Data Protection Principle: BPAS failed to take appropriate measures against the unauthorised processing of personal data as they didn’t delineate specific parameters to ensure the website did not store personal data, nor set up appropriate security measures.
Known or should have known BPAS clearly knew that personal data of this nature needed to be held securely as they decided not to put in place their original ‘appointment booking system’ and provided promises of security in their privacy policy. They should have been able to prevent the contravention by having a detailed specification of the parameters of the CMS to either ensure that data was not stored on the website or provide adequate security for this information.
Likely to cause damage or distress The website’s privacy policy led users to believe that their information would remain secure and confidential, and the ability of a hacker to access this information is likely to cause substantial distress if this was known, particularly with the fear that this data could be further disseminated. If the data had been misused by the attacker or disclosed to untrustworthy third parties there is a risk that some individuals would have faced physical harm or even death given their ethnicity or social background and the nature of the advice they were seeking (including abortion and sterilisation).

Royal Veterinary College

Breach details

What Theft of a camera memory card containing passport images of multiple job applicants.
How much An unknown number.
When December 2012.
Why A memory card containing applicant passport photos was stolen from a camera owned by an employee, and thus fell outside the RVC’s policies and procedures. However, the possiblity of the use of personal devices in the workplace was not accounted for in these policies. Staff data protection training is also inadequate and is not being proactively addressed to prevent similar issues occurring in the future.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle.
When 15 October 2013.
Details The RVC is to implement mandatory induction and annual refresher training to all staff who routinely process personal information by 30 April 2014. This training is to be recorded and monitored, and follow-up procedures are to be implemented to ensure that all staff complete this training. In addition to training, all portable and mobile devices used to transmit personal data are to be encrypted and advice given on the use of personal devices.

Luton Borough Council

Breach details

What Personal data including information on the health and ethnicity of the data subjects.
How much Two cases.
When December 2012 and January 2013.
Why Two separate incidents involved incorrect handling of personal data by social work staff. In the first case an email containing personal information about a family was sent across an unsecured internet connection and also sent to an agency unconnected to the family. In the second case papers were lost in an accident when a member of staff took them home when leaving work early due to severe weather.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle.
When 11 September 2013.
Details Staff are to be trained in how to follow the Council’s procedures for the storage and use of personal data by 30 November 2013. Training is also required before staff are granted access to the Council’s sytems and should be refreshed within two years. In addition to training new procedures covering such issues as the transporting of personal data outside of the office must be drafted by 30 November.

Health & Care Professions Council

Breach details

What Documents containing personal data relating to a ‘fitness to practice’ hearing.
How much An unknown number of documents.
When 2011.
Why A suitcase containing documents relating to a ‘fitness to practice’ hearing was stolen from a train. The solicitors who had prepared these documents had not signed a contract to act only under instruction from the Data Controller, and had not been provided with specific guidance on the redaction of these documents for hearings.

BW Comments

It is strange the the ICO highlights the lack of an adequate contract between the Data Controller and their solicitor. Surely the normal contract of engagement between a client and solicitor would provide the necessary requirements of confidentiality and that the solicitor should only act on the client’s instructions?

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle.
When 09 July 2013.
Details The Data Controller is to immediately enter into a contract with its solicitors and issue instructions regarding the processing of personal data. In addition, agents and contractors given access to personal data are to be provided with specific guidance around data security; compliance with policies on data protection is to be regularly monitored; and security measures are to be implemented to protect personal data.

Glasgow City Council

Breach details

What Personal data, including some bank account details, on two stolen unencrypted laptops.
How much At least 20,143 records.
When 28 May 2012
Why Two unencrypted laptops were stolen from an office in the process of being refurbished. Employee 1 had locked up her laptop and left the key in Employee 2’s drawer. Employee 2 put his laptop in his storage drawer but failed to lock it. Both laptops were stolen. Employee 2’s laptop contained the council’s creditor payment history file, including 20,143 personal names ad addresses and 6,069 bank account details.
About 74 other unencrypted laptops are unaccounted for, of which six are known to have been stolen.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Monetary penalty of £ 150,000
When 04 June 2013

Why the regulator acted

Breach of act Breach of the seventh principle: the Council failed to take appropriate technical measures to prevent the loss of personal data from laptops, such as implementing port control and encrypting laptops.
Known or should have known In spite of enforcement action taken against the Council in 2010 concerning failings related to unencrypted laptops, unencrypted laptops were still in use in 2012, in breach of the Council’s own policy. It should have been obvious the risks were increased by the physical insecurity of the offices undergoing refurbishment. The Commissioner also highlighted his own well-known guidance on the encryption of portable media, dating back to 2007.
Likely to cause damage or distress As usual, the Commissioner’s argument is that data subjects are likely to have suffered from substantial distress knowing that their personal data may be disclosed to third parties who have no right to see that information. Additionally if the data is disclosed to ‘untrustworthy third parties’ there is the potential that the data subjects may be exposed to identity theft.

Glasgow City Council

Breach details

What Two unencrypted laptops containing substantial amounts of personal data were stolen from offices undergoing refurbishment.
How much An unknown number of records.
When Unknown
Why An earlier enforcement notice was issued in 2010. Since then, previous thefts had occurred from the Council’s offices and physical security had not been improved. In addition, unencrypted laptops were still being issued and over 70 unencrypted laptops were unaccounted for.

BW Comments

A Monetary Penalty Notice was issued to Glasgow in respect of this breach but the quality of IT asset management at the Council was obviously so poor that the ICO felt it needed to issue an enforcement notice as well.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Enforcement Notice
When 04 June 2013
Details Enforcement Notice issued to ensure that asset management is improved. A full audit of existing IT assets relating to personal information must be undertaken by 30 June 2013, along with asset management training for managers and reissuing information security guidelines to staff. A new asset register must be completed by 31 July 2013 and updated on a yearly basis.

BW Observations

Interestingly the enforcement notice didn’t re-enforce the 2010 instruction to encrypt laptops.

News Group Newspapers

Breach details

What Customers’ personal data, some several years old.
How much ‘Thousands’ according to some press reports , a ‘large amount’ described in the undertaking and TechEye claimed 500,000.
When July 2011
Why A server hosting part of The Sun newspaper’s website had, unnoticed by the data controller, been repurposed several years earlier, and was subsequently compromised by a malicious attacker (Lulzsec). Further weaknesses had also been identified but remained unrectified prior to the attack.

BW Comments

It is surprising that a large organisation such as News Group Newspapers made such simple information security mistakes. Firstly in retaining data they no longer needed when they re-built a server for a new role, but more worryingly that they had previously had a penetration test but had not rectified the vulnerabilities identified by the tester.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the fifth and seventh data protection principles
When 9 November 2011
Details Along with the usual staff awareness and training, technical security controls on the web server were to be improved and implemented by 31 December 2011 (i.e. compliance with the seventh principle), and any customer data collected to be cleared regularly according to a defined retention and disposal policy (compliance with the fifth principle).

BW Observations

This undertaking was not released until the criminal trial of the UK-based Lulzsec hackers was concluded. It is interesting that the ICO didn’t see fit to consider a monetary penalty notice as the breach appears to meet the right criteria.
  • There was a breach of the fifth and seventh principles.
  • There had been a previous penetration test, so the Sun knew of the vulnerability.
  • It seems that a significant volume of data was lost and then circulated on the Internet. Although it wasn’t sensitive personal data, the volume of the data should be enough to pass the ‘likely to cause distress’ test especially given the data was posted to the Internet — i.e. the breach of confidentiality happened, it was not something that might happen if the lost data were exposed.

This undertaking should be contrasted with the Sony MPN that was also the result of Lulzsec’s activities and it will be informative to see if the ICO’s choice of an undertaking for the Sun is mentioned at Sony’s appeal to the Information Tribunal. Less charitable commentators may view this soft approach to News Group Newspapers as another example of the Commissioner’s fear of the UK press.

Leeds City Council

Breach details

What Personal and sensitive (health) personal data.
How much An unknown number of records contained in seven Excel spreadsheets, including name, address, date of birth and disability details.
When Not specified.
Why During migration of the Leeds Initiative website from one server to another, a private area was accessible to members of the public because a data processor failed to configure the new server identically to the old server. The site was then not sufficiently tested to identify the problem.

BW Comments

If there’s public and non-public information on any web server there’s always an increased risk of data loss, so any changes to internet-facing infrastructure should always be fully tested. Organisations that know the locations and classification of their data are less likely to suffer this type of breach.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle
When 30 November 2012
Details The data controller is to ensure that clear contractual arrangements are in place with a data processor; that data processors are monitored for compliance with the seventh principle; that technically proficient staff are included at all stages of procurement; and that appropriate security measures are in place to protect personal data.

BW Observations

It looks like Leeds Council are following what appears to be a trend in reporting a breach, and also reporting sensible remedial action at the same time. It is interesting that the same council was also subject to a recent monetary penalty.

Isle of Anglesey County Council

Breach details

What Loss of personal data and in one case loss of sensitive personal data.
How much Unknown
When Several incidents in early 2012
Why Documents containing personal data were inappropriately disclosed or disposed of, or put at risk of unauthorised access. The council had an out of date data protection policy, and provided insufficient data protection training.

BW Comments

The undertaking is very vague, and doesn’t provide specific details of what happened to cause the data losses, or why.

Regulatory action

Regulator ICO
Action Undertaking to comply with the seventh data protection principle
When 20 December 2012
Details The data conroller is to ensure that all policies and procedures are up to date and in place to support staff who handle personal data and that these will be communicated to all relevant staff along with information governance training.

BW Observations

It is almost as if the council, as part of its self-reporting, suggested the necessary remedial action.