Cabinet Office Receives £500,000 GDPR Fine

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined the Cabinet Office £500,000 for disclosing postal addresses of the 2020 New Year Honours recipients online.

The New Year Honours list is supposed to “recognise the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom.” However in 2020 the media attention was on the fact that, together with the names of recipients, the Cabinet Office accidentally published their addresses; a clear breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) particularly the sixth data protection principle and Article 32 (security).

The Honours List file contained the details of 1097 people, including the singer Sir Elton John, cricketer Ben Stokes, the politician Iain Duncan Smith and the TV cook Nadiya Hussain. More than a dozen MoD employees and senior counter-terrorism officers as well as holocaust survivors were also on the list which was published online at 10.30pm on Friday 26th December 2019. After becoming aware of the data breach, the Cabinet Office removed the weblink to the file. However, the file was still cached and accessible online to people who had the exact webpage address.

The personal data was available online for a period of two hours and 21 minutes and it was accessed 3,872 times. The vast majority of people on the list had their house numbers, street names and postcodes published with their name. One of the lessons here is, always have a second person check the data before pressing “publish”.

This is the first ever GDPR fine issued by the ICO to a public sector organisation. A stark contrast to the ICO’s fines under the DPA 1998 where they started with a local authority. Article 82(1) sets out the right to compensation:

“Any person who has suffered material or non-material damage as a result of an infringement of this Regulation shall have the right to receive compensation from the controller or processor for the damage suffered.”

It will be interesting to see how many of the affected individuals pursue a civil claim. 

(See also our blog post from the time the breach was reported.)

This and other GDPR developments will be discussed in detail on our forthcoming GDPR Update workshop. We have a one place left on our Advanced Certificate in GDPR Practice course starting in January.

To Share or Not to Share; That is the Question! 

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On 5th October 2021 the Data Sharing Code of Practice from the Information Commissioner’s Office came into effect for UK based Data Controllers.  

The code is not law nor does it ‘enforce’ data sharing, but it does provide some useful steps to consider when sharing personal data either as a one off or as part of an ongoing arrangement. Data Protection professionals, and the staff in the organisations they serve, will still need to navigate a way through various pressures, frameworks, and expectations on the sharing of personal data; case by case, framework by framework. A more detailed post on the contents of the code can be read here.  

Act Now Training is pleased to announce a new full day ‘hands on’ workshop for Data Protection professionals on Data Sharing. Our expert trainer, Scott Sammons, will look at the practical steps to take, sharing frameworks and protocols, risks to consider etc. Scott will also explore how, as part of your wider IG framework, you can establish a proactive support framework; making it easier for staff to understand their data sharing obligations/expectations and driving down the temptation to use a ‘Data Protection Duck out’ for why something was shared/not shared inappropriately.  

Delegates will also be encouraged to bring a data sharing scenario to discuss with fellow delegates and the tutor. This workshop can also be customised and delivered to your organisation at your premises or virtually. Get in touch to learn more.

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Law Enforcement Processing and the Meaning of “authorised by law”

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In October, there was a decision in the Scottish courts which will be of interest to data protection practitioners and lawyers when interpreting Part 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (law enforcement processing)  and more generally the UK GDPR.

The General Teaching Council For Scotland v The Chief Constable of The Police Service of Scotland could fairly be described as a skirmish about expenses (known as costs in other parts of the UK) in seven Petitions to the Court of Session by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (“GTCS”) against the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (“Police Scotland”). The petitions essentially sought disclosure of information, held by Police Scotland, to the GTCS which the GTCS had asked Police Scotland for, but which the latter had refused to provide. 

This case will be of interest to data protection practitioners for two reasons: (1) there is some consideration by Lord Uist as to what “authorised by law” means in the context of processing personal data under Part 3 DPA 2018 for purposes other than law enforcement purposes; and (2) it contains a salutary reminder that while advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can be useful, it can also be wrong; as well as the responsibilities of data controllers in relation to their decisions.

The GTCS is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the teaching profession in Scotland. They are responsible for assessing the fitness of people applying to be added to the register of teachers in Scotland as well as the continuing fitness of those already on the register. In reliance of these functions, the GTCS had requested information from Police Scotland in order to assist it in fulfilling these duties. The information held by Police Scotland was processed by them for the law enforcement purposes; it thus fell within Part 3 of the DPA 2018. In response, the GTCS petitioned the Court of Session for orders requiring Police Scotland to release the information. Police Scotland did not oppose the Petitions and argued that it should not be found liable for the expenses of the GTCS in bringing the Petitions to the court. This was on the basis that it had not opposed them and it could not have given the GTCS information without the court’s order.

The ICO advice to Police Scotland

Police Scotland refused to supply the information without a court order on the basis that to do so would be processing the personal data for purposes other than the law enforcement purposes where the disclosure was authorised by law in contravention of the second Data Protection Principle under Section 36 of the DPA 2018 which states:

“(1) The second data protection principle is that – (a) the law enforcement purpose for which personal data is collected on any occasion must be specified, explicit and legitimate, and (b) personal data so collected must not be processed in a manner that is incompatible with the purpose for which it was collected. 

(2) Paragraph (b) of the second data protection principle is subject to subsections (3) and (4). 

(3) Personal data collected for a law enforcement purpose may be processed for any other law enforcement purpose (whether by the controller that collected the data or by another controller) provided that – 

(a) the controller is authorised by law to process that data for the other purpose, and
(b) the processing is necessary and proportionate to that other purpose. 

(4) Personal data collected for any of the law enforcement purposes may not be processed for a purpose that is not a law enforcement purpose unless the processing is authorised by law.” 

Police Scotland was relying upon advice from the ICO. That advice was that Police Scotland “would require either an order of the court or a specific statutory obligation to provide the information”, otherwise Police Scotland would be breaching the requirements of the DPA 2018. A longer form of the advice provided by the ICO to Police Scotland may be found at paragraph 10 of Lord Uist’s decision.

The ICO’s advice to Police Scotland was in conflict with what the ICO said in its code of practice issued under section 121 of the DPA 2018. There the ICO said that “authorised by law” could be “for example, statute, common law, royal prerogative or statutory code”. 

Authorised by Law

Lord Uist decided that the position adopted by Police Scotland, and the advice given to them by the ICO, was “plainly wrong”; concluding that the disclosure of the information requested by the GTCS would have been authorised by law without a court order.

The law recognises the need to balance the public interest in the free flow of information to the police for criminal proceedings, which requires that information given in confidence is not used for other purposes, against the public interest in protecting the public by disclosing confidential  information to regulatory bodies charged with ensuring professionals within their scope of responsibility are fit to continue practising. In essence, when the police are dealing with requests for personal data processed for law enforcement purposes by regulatory bodies, they must have regard to the public interest in ensuring that these regulatory bodies, which exist to protect the public, are able to carry out their own statutory functions.

Perhaps more significantly, the law also recognises that a court order is not required for such disclosures to be made to regulatory bodies. This meant that there was, at common law, a lawful basis upon which Police Scotland could have released the information requested by the GTCS to them. Therefore, Police Scotland would not have been in breach of section 36(4) of the DPA 2018 had they provided the information without a court order.

In essence, a lack of a specific statutory power to require information to be provided to it, or a specific statutory requirement on the police to provide the information, does not mean a disclosure is not authorised by law. It is necessary, as the ICO’s code of practice recognises, to look beyond statute and consider whether there is a basis at common law. 

Police Scotland was required by Lord Uist to meet the expenses of the GTCS in bringing the Petitions. This was because the Petitions had been necessitated by Police Scotland requiring a court order when none was required. Lord Uist was clear that Police Scotland had to take responsibility for their own decision; it was not relevant to consider that they acted on erroneous advice from the ICO.

This case serves as a clear reminder that, while useful, advice from the ICO can be wrong. The same too, of course, applies in respect of the guidance published by the ICO. It can be a good starting point, but it should never be the starting and end point. When receiving advice from the ICO it is necessary to think about that advice critically; especially where, as here, the advice contradicts other guidance published by the ICO. It is necessary to consider why there is a discrepancy and which is correct: the advice or the guidance?
It may, of course, be the case that both are actually incorrect.

The finding of liability for expenses is also a reminder that controllers are ultimately responsible for the decisions that they take in relation to the processing of personal data.
It is not good enough to effectively outsource that decision-making and responsibility to the ICO. Taking tricky questions to the regulator does not absolve the controller from considering the question itself, both before and after seeking the advice of the ICO.

Finally, this case may also be a useful and helpful reference point when considering whether something is “authorised by law” for the purposes of processing under Part 3 of the DPA 2018. It is, however, a first instance decision (the Outer House of the Court of Session being broadly similar in status to the High Court in England and Wales) and that ought to be kept in mind when considering it.

Alistair Sloan is a Devil (pupil) at the Scottish Bar; prior to commencing devilling he was a solicitor in Scotland and advised controllers, data protection officers and data subjects on a range of information law matters.

We have just announced a new full day workshop on Part 3 of the DPA 2018. See also our Part 3 Policy Pack.

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Ticketmaster Fined £1.25m Over Cyber Attack

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GDPR fines are like a number 65 bus. You wait for a long time and then three arrive at once. In the space of a month the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued three Monetary Penalty Notices. The latest requires Ticketmaster to pay £1.25m following a cyber-attack on its website which compromised millions of customers’ personal information.  

The ICO investigation into this breach found a vulnerability in a third-party chatbot built by Inbenta Technologies, which Ticketmaster had installed on its online payments page. A cyber-attacker was able to use the chatbot to access customer payment details which included names, payment card numbers, expiry dates and CVV numbers. This had the potential to affect 9.4million Ticketmaster customers across Europe including 1.5 million in the UK. 

As a result of the breach, according to the ICO, 60,000 payment cards belonging to Barclays Bank customers had been subjected to known fraud. Another 6000 cards were replaced by Monzo Bank after it suspected fraudulent use. The ICO said these bank and others had warned Ticketmaster of suspected fraud. Despite these warnings it took nine weeks to start monitoring activity on its payments page. 

The ICO found that Ticketmaster failed to: 

  • Assess the risks of using a chat-bot on its payment page 
  • Identify and implement appropriate security measures to negate the risks 
  • Identify the source of suggested fraudulent activity in a timely manner 

James Dipple-Johnstone, Deputy Information Commissioner, said: 

“When customers handed over their personal details, they expected Ticketmaster to look after them. But they did not. 

Ticketmaster should have done more to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack. Its failure to do so meant that millions of people in the UK and Europe were exposed to potential fraud. 

The £1.25milllion fine we’ve issued today will send a message to other organisations that looking after their customers’ personal details safely should be at the top of their agenda.” 

In a statement, Ticketmaster said:  

“Ticketmaster takes fans’ data privacy and trust very seriously. Since Inbenta Technologies was breached in 2018, we have offered our full cooperation to the ICO.
We plan to appeal [against] today’s announcement.” 

Ticketmaster’s appeal will put the ICO’s reasoning and actions, when issuing fines, under judicial scrutiny. This will help GDPR practitioners faced with similar ICO investigations.   

Ticketmaster is also facing civil legal action by thousands of fraud victims. Law firm Keller Lenkner, which represents some of these victims, said: 

“While several banks tried to alert Ticketmaster of potential fraud, it took an unacceptable nine weeks for action to be taken, exposing an estimated 1.5 million UK customers,” said Kingsley Hayes, the firm’s head of cyber-crime.  

Data Protection Officers are encouraged to read the Monetary Penalty Notice as it not only sets out the reasons for the ICO’s conclusion but also the factors it has taken into account in deciding to issue a fine and how it calculated the amount. This fine follows hot on the heels of the British Airways and Marriott fines which also concerned cyber security breaches. (You can read more about the causes of cyber security breaches in our recent blog post.) 

75% of fines issued by the ICO under GDPR relate to cyber security. This is a top regulatory priority for the ICO as well as supervisory authorities across Europe.
Data Protection Officers should place cyber security at the top of their learning and development plan for 2021.  

We have some places available on our forthcoming Cyber Security for DPOs workshop. This and other GDPR developments will be covered in our next online GDPR update workshop.

The ICO’s New Subject Access Guidance

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GDPR has introduced some new Data Subject rights including the right to erasure and data portability. The familiar right of Subject Access though still remains albeit with some additional obligations. Last week the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published its long awaited right of access detailed guidance following a consultation exercise in December. The guidance provides some much needed clarification on key subject access issues Data Controllers have been grappling with since May 2018. 

Reasonable Searches 

Sometimes Data Subjects make subject access requests with the aim of creating maximum work for the recipient. “I want to see all the documents you hold which have my name in them, including e mails” is a common one. How much effort has to be made when searching for such information? The new guidance states that Controllers should make reasonable efforts to find and retrieve the requested information. However, they are “not required to conduct searches that would be unreasonable or disproportionate to the importance of providing access to the information.” Factors to consider when determining whether searches may be unreasonable or disproportionate are:

  • the circumstances of the request; 
  • any difficulties involved in finding the information; and 
  • the fundamental nature of the right of access. 

Thus there is no obligation to make every possible effort to find all instances of personal data on the Data Controller’s systems. However, the burden of proof is on Controllers to be able to justify why a search is unreasonable or disproportionate. 

Stopping the Clock 

Data Controllers have one month to respond to a subject access request. Normally this period starts from the day the request is received. Previously the ICO guidance stated that the day after receipt counted as ‘day one’. They revised their position last year following a Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling

Data Controllers can ask the Data Subject to clarify their request, if it is unclear what they want, but this often leaves little time to meet the one month deadline. Having considered consultation responses, the ICO’s position now is that where a request requires clarification, in certain circumstances, the clock can be stopped whilst Controllers are waiting for clarification. 

Manifestly Unfounded and Excessive 

Article 12(5) of GDPR allows Data Controllers to refuse a Data Subject request or charge a fee where it is “manifestly unfounded or excessive.” The burden of proving this is on the Controllers whose staff often struggle with these concepts. The ICO has now provided additional guidance on these terms. 

A request may be manifestly unfounded if: 

  • The individual clearly has no intention to exercise their right of access; or 
  • The request is malicious in intent and is being used to harass an organisation with no real purpose other than to cause disruption. For example, the individual: 
  • explicitly states, in the request itself or in other communications, that they intend to cause disruption; 
  • makes unsubstantiated accusations against you or specific employees which are clearly prompted by malice; 
  • targets a particular employee against whom they have some personal grudge; or 
  • systematically sends different requests to the Controller as part of a campaign, e.g. once a week, with the intention of causing disruption. 

To determine whether a request is manifestly excessive Data Controllers need to consider whether it is clearly or obviously unreasonable. They should base this on whether the request is proportionate when balanced with the burden or costs involved in dealing with the request. This will mean taking into account all the circumstances of the request, including: 

  • the nature of the requested information; 
  • the context of the request, and the relationship between the Controller and the individual; 
  • whether a refusal to provide the information or even acknowledge if the Controller holds it may cause substantive damage to the individual; 
  • the Controller’s available resources; 
  • whether the request largely repeats previous requests and a reasonable interval hasn’t elapsed; or 
  • whether it overlaps with other requests (although if it relates to a completely separate set of information it is unlikely to be excessive).  

The Fee 

What can be included when charging a fee for manifestly unfounded or excessive requests? The new guidance says Data Controllers can take into account the administrative costs of: 

  • assessing whether or not they are processing the information; 
  • locating, retrieving and extracting the information; 
  • providing a copy of the information; and 
  • communicating the response to the individual 

A reasonable fee may include the costs of: 

  • photocopying, printing, postage and any other costs involved in transferring the information to the individual; 
  • equipment and supplies (e.g. discs, envelopes or USB devices) 

Staff time can also be included in the above based on the estimated time it will take staff to comply with the specific request, charged at a reasonable hourly rate. In the absence of relevant regulations under the Data Protection Act 2018, the ICO encourages Data Controllers to publish their criteria for charging a  fee and how they calculate it.  

Finally, the new ICO guidance emphasises the importance of preparation particularity the need to have: 

  • Training for employees to enable them to recognise subject access requests;  
  • Specific people appointed to deal with requests; 
  • Policies and procedures; and  
  • Technical systems in place to assist with the retrieval of requested information. 

Our Handling Subject Access Requests workshop is now available online. It covers all aspects of dealing with SARs including identifying and applying exemptionsLooking for a GDPR Qualification? Final places left on our online GDPR Practitioner Certificate

British Airways: Proposed GDPR Fine Likely to be Reduced

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In July 2019, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) signalled its intention to use its powers to issue to issue Monetary Penalty Notices (fines) under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Two Notices of Intent were issued with much fanfare.

One of the Notices was issued to British Airways for the eye watering some of £183 Million. This was the result of names, email addresses and credit card information being stolen by hackers from the BA website. According to the statement from the ICO at the time 500,000 customers were compromised in this incident.

Remember that this was a Notice of Intent and not a fine. After many months of delays and the coronavirus lockdown, we are now in a position to hazard a good guess as to the amount of the actual fine. Thanks to the reporting requirements for listed companies it is very likely that British Airways will be fined much less than the £184 million announced a year ago, and could be as little as 10% of that amount.

On 31st July, IAG ( British Airways parent company) issued its Interim Management Report for the six months ended June 30, 2020 which states:

The exceptional charge of €22 million represents management’s best estimate of the amount of any penalty issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the United Kingdom, relating to the theft of customer data at British Airways in 2018. The process is ongoing and no final penalty notice has been issued“.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the other Notice of Intent, relating to Marriott Hotels for £99 Million, as well as the ICO’s investigation into the more recent EasyJet data breach. Watch this space!

This and other GDPR developments will be covered in our new online GDPR update workshopThe Lockdown is the perfect time to train your staff about GDPR and keeping data safe. With GDPR Essentials e learning course they can do this from the comfort of their own home. 

 

Act Now Supporting Innovative Digital DPIA Project

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Act Now Training is pleased to announce that it is supporting a new public sector collaboration to co-design and develop a digital approach to Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs).

This innovative six month project will help Data Controllers conducting DPIAs to ensure that a ’Data Protection by Design and Default’ approach is embedded into the process. The project is also supported by the Information Commissioner’s Office, NHSX and the Information and Records Management Society.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the London Office of Technology and Innovation, Norfolk County Council and the University of Nottingham are leading the project which follows on from a successful alpha phase undertaken last year. A full project overview can be read here: https://cc2i.org.uk/digital-dpia/

Ibrahim Hasan, Director of Act Now Training, said:

“We are really pleased to be supporting this innovative new project alongside the Information Commissioner’s Office, NHSX and the IRMS. A digital DPIA solution will be a valuable tool to help DPOs ensure that privacy and data protection are at the heart of every new data driven project.”

Are you a public authority wishing to a share in this exciting new project and shape the future of the Digital DPIA? Using a proven co-funding approach (similar to crowdfunding, but on a corporate level), the collective is actively looking for partners to join them in this cost-neutral project.

A webinar on the project and approach is being hosted on Wednesday 12th at 2pm. Led by Stephen Girling, Information Governance Project Manager at GMCA and Lianne Hawkins, Head of Service Design at Looking Local, this webinar will cover:

  • The background and outcomes of the original Digital DPIA alpha project undertaken by GMCA – including the headline business case
  • The benefits of a uniform approach to DPIAs across public sector
  • The work packages planned to deliver a digital DPIA solution
  • Partner benefits and their motivation to be part of this collaborative approach
  • Project partners timelines & what’s involved

We would encourage all our blog subscribers to register for the webinar here: http://bit.ly/2ScGdi2 A recording of the webinar will also be available. Please email  irene.zdziebko@cc2i.org.uk 

First Fine under GDPR

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued the first fine under GDPR to a London-based pharmacy. Doorstep Dispensaree Ltd, has been issued with a Monetary Penalty Notice of £275,000 for failing to ensure the security of Special Category Data.

The company, which supplies medicines to customers and care homes, left approximately 500,000 documents in unlocked containers at the back of its premises in Edgware. The documents included names, addresses, dates of birth, NHS numbers, medical information and prescriptions belonging to an unknown number of people. The ICO held that this gave rise to infringements GDPR’s security and data retention obligations. Following a thorough investigation the ICO also concluded that the company’s privacy notices and internal policies were not up to scratch.

The ICO launched its investigation into Doorstep Dispensaree after it was alerted to the insecurely stored documents by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which was carrying out its own separate enquiry into the pharmacy. Steve Eckersley, Director of Investigations at the ICO, said:

“The careless way Doorstep Dispensaree stored special category data failed to protect it from accidental damage or loss. This falls short of what the law expects and it falls short of what people expect.”

Doorstep Dispensaree has also been issued with an enforcement notice, under Section 149 of the Data Protection Act 2018, due to the significance of the contraventions. It has three months to:

Training seems to feature heavily in the ICO’s Enforcement Notice. GDPR requires all organisations to ensure that their employees are aware of their role in protecting personal data. How to do this without them spending valuable time away from the office or overspending the training budget?

GDPR Essentials is a new e learning course from Act Now Training designed to teach those working on the frontline essential GDPR knowledge in an engaging, fun and interactive way. In less than one hour employees will learn about the key provisions of GDPR and how to keep personal data safe. Click here to read more and watch a demo.

After issuing Notices of Intent to two high profile companies for millions of pounds (British Airways and Marriot) the Information Commissioner has finally issued an actual fine, albeit for a much lower amount and to a less well known company. Data Controllers and Processors need to read the penalty notice carefully and ensure that are not repeating the same mistakes as Doorstep Dispensaree Ltd.

These and other GDPR developments will be discussed in detail in our GDPR update workshop.

A New (GDPR) Data Sharing Code

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The law on data sharing is a minefield clouded with myths and misunderstandings.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently launched a consultation on an updated draft code of practice on this subject. Before drafting the new code, the ICO launched a call for views in August 2018, seeking input from various organisations such as trade associations and those representing the interests of individuals. (Read a summary of the responses here). The revised code will eventually replace the version made under the Data Protection Act 1998, first published in 2011.

The new code does not impose any additional barriers to data sharing, but aims to help organisations comply with their legal obligations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018).
Launching the consultation, which will close on 9th September 2019, the ICO said the code will:

“… address many aspects of the new legislation including transparency, lawful bases for processing, the new accountability principle and the requirement to record processing activities”.

Once finalised, the code will be a statutory code of practice under section 121 of the DPA 2018. Under section 127, the ICO must take account of it when considering whether a Data Controller has complied with its data protection obligations in relation to data sharing. The code can also be used in evidence in court proceedings and the courts must take its provisions into account wherever relevant.

Following the code, along with other ICO guidance, will help Data Controllers to manage risks; meet high standards; clarify any misconceptions about data sharing; and give confidence to share data appropriately and correctly. In addition to the statutory guidance, the code contains some optional good practice recommendations, which aim to help Data Controllers adopt an effective approach to data protection compliance.
It also covers some special cases, such as databases and lists, sharing information about children, data sharing in an emergency, and the ethics of data sharing.Reference is also made to the provisions of the Digital Economy Act 2017 which seeks to promote data sharing across the public sector

There is also section on sharing data for the purposes of law enforcement processing under Part 3 of the DPA 2018. This is an important area which organisations have not really understood as demonstrated by the recent High Court ruling that Sussex Police unlawfully shared personal data about a vulnerable teenager putting her “at greater risk.”

Steve Wood, the Deputy Information Commissioner for Policy, said:

“Data sharing brings many benefits to organisations and individuals, but it needs to be done in compliance with data protection law.”

“Our draft data sharing code gives practical advice and guidance on how to share data safely and fairly, and we are encouraging organisations to send us their comments before we launch the final code in the Autumn.”

You can respond to the consultation via the ICO’s online survey, or email datasharingcode@ico.org.uk until Monday 9 September 2019.

More on these and other developments in our GDPR update workshop presented by Ibrahim Hasan. Looking for a GDPR qualification? Our practitioner certificate is the best option.

The BA and Marriot Data Breaches: The ICO takes its gloves off!

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This week we saw the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) finally signal its intention to use its powers to issue to issue Monetary Penalty Notices (fines) under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Two Notices of Intent have been issued.  Both relate to cyber security incidents but are for different reasons and amounts.

Under the GDPR, supplemented by the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA18), the ICO has a number of statutory duties and powers with regards to regulating Controllers’ and Processors’ obligations. Article 58 gives the ICO its powers. Article 83(2) sets out the criteria that have to be taken into account by the ICO when issuing fines. These include the nature, gravity and duration of the breach, the number of data subjects affected, level of damage and action taken to mitigate the damage. All this is outlined in the ICO’s Enforcement Policy.

British Airways Notice of Intent – £183 Million

According to the statement from the ICO:

“The proposed fine relates to a cyber incident notified to the ICO by British Airways in September 2018. This incident in part involved user traffic to the British Airways website being diverted to a fraudulent site. Through this false site, customer details were harvested by the attackers. Personal data of approximately 500,000 customers were compromised in this incident, which is believed to have begun in June 2018.

The ICO’s investigation has found that a variety of information was compromised by poor security arrangements at the company, including log in, payment card, and travel booking details as well name and address information.”

According to various sources at the time, for a period of two weeks BA’s systems were compromised. Hackers took the personal and financial details of customers who made, or changed, flight bookings on www.BA.com or its app during that time. Names, email addresses and credit card information were stolen – including card numbers, expiration dates and the three-digit CVC code required to authorise payments.

According to an article from wired.co.uk, the BA vulnerability was a well-known one and could have been prevented with a simple fix. While we don’t know the exact details yet, perhaps that is why the ICO wants to fine BA a whopping £183 Million!

What this also appears to show is that because the BA breach resulted in customers of BA being stuck in various holiday locations unable to get home the effect on “the rights and freedoms of individuals” was certainly far more concrete (and some could say worse) than what we currently know about the Marriott data breach (see below). Perhaps this is why the fine amount is so high.

As soon as the notice of intent was filed BA announced they were going to appeal, either because they see themselves as the victim here (as stated in various press statements about the incident) or they believe that the ICO has acted disproportionately. We shall see…

Marriott Hotels Notice of Intent – £99 Million

According to the statement from the ICO:

“The proposed fine relates to a cyber incident which was notified to the ICO by Marriott in November 2018. A variety of personal data contained in approximately 339 million guest records globally were exposed by the incident, of which around 30 million related to residents of 31 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). Seven million related to UK residents.

It is believed the vulnerability began when the systems of the Starwood hotels group were compromised in 2014. Marriott subsequently acquired Starwood in 2016, but the exposure of customer information was not discovered until 2018. The ICO’s investigation found that Marriott failed to undertake sufficient due diligence when it bought Starwood and should also have done more to secure its systems.”

According to various sources (see the BBC article at the time) this specific cyber security breach related to one of the booking databases belonging to Starwood hotels. A vulnerability in the database was exploited in 2014 and has been exploited ever since then until an internal security tool detected suspicious activity in 2018. The database in question contained records of up to 500 million customers of which 339 million were compromised including names, addresses and encrypted payment card information.

In  2016 Starwood (and all its assets and liabilities) were bought by Marriott. Part of the ICO statement accuses Marriott of not completing effective due diligence on Starwood and that appears to be the main reason for the intention to fine. One would conclude therefore that when purchasing a company a full security assessment and penetration test on the IT network and systems should be completed.  Marriott have also announced their intention to appeal the notice of intent. Not surprising when it is £99 Million!

What does this mean?

As with the Metropolitan Police announcement a few weeks ago, I’m sure these announcements will go down in Data Protection history but until the action is confirmed and the money exchanges accounts, what it exactly means for the regulatory landscape is yet to be seen. These are just intentions to fine, not the actual fine itself. The press (and some people that still don’t understand Data Protection when they claim to) got all excited about it at the time (and were corrected by many on social media). I think someone used the phrase (which I now cannot find so I can’t credit you – sorry!) “it’s basically like me saying I have an intention to buy my lunch”. But your lunch currently isn’t bought, and you are, indeed, still hungry!

What it means in terms of what you can practically do in your day jobs however is quite clear. GDPR emphasises the need to have ‘effective organisational and technical measures’. So, if you are going to buy a business (or just build a new system) ensure you have done your due diligence and testing on it to help mitigate any potential risks. You can’t catch everything (especially in a cyber security context) but at the very least you must be seen to be trying. Doing nothing, or ‘ignorance is bliss’, will ultimately land you in trouble.

Secure systems, privacy by design, effective cyber security and a half decent data culture will help you on your path and is a fair size more beneficial than the world of ignorance.

Scott Sammons is a trainer with Act Now. More on these and other developments will be in our GDPR Update webinar and full day workshop presented by Ibrahim Hasan. Looking for a GDPR qualification, our practitioner certificate is the best option.

Photo: Thanks to Sam Truong Dan for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/-rF4kuvgHhU 

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