Category: Data breach

National Retailer fined £500,000 by ICO

10. January 2020

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – UK’s Data Protection Authority – has fined the national retailer ‘DSG Retail Limited’ £500,000 for failing to secure information of at least 14 million people after a computer system was compromised as result of a cyberattack.

An investigation by the ICO came to the conclusion that between July 2017 and April 2018 malware has been installed and collected personal data until the attack was detected. Due to the failure of DSG the attacker had access to 5.6 million payment card details and further personal data, inter alia full names, postcodes and email addresses.

The reason for the fine is seen in having poor security arrangements and failing to take adequate steps to protect personal data. The fine is based on the Data Protection Act 1998.

The director of the ICO, Steve Eckersley, said:

“Our investigation found systemic failures in the way DSG Retail Limited safeguarded personal data. It is very concerning that these failures related to basic, commonplace security measures, showing a complete disregard for the customers whose personal information was stolen. The contraventions in this case were so serious that we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation, but the fine would inevitably have been much higher under the GDPR.”

The ICO considered the individual freedom of DSG’s customers to be at risk. Customers would have to fear financial theft and identity fraud.

Category: Cyber security · Data breach · UK

Fine imposed on the City of Oslo

2. January 2020

The Norwegian data protection authority (datatilsynet) recently imposed a fine of €49,300 on the city of Oslo. The reason for the fine was that the city has kept patient data outside the electronic health record system at the city’s nursing homes/health centres from 2007 to November 2018.

The case became known because the City of Oslo reported a data breach to the Data Protection Authority in November 2018. This report included information that various governmental and private nursing homes/health centres were using work sheets. These contained information about the residents, such as their daily needs and care routines, but also full names and room numbers. The work sheets were stored on the respective intranet of the institution and all employees, including for example cleaning staff, had access to this data.

After the procedure came to the surface, the Nursing Home Agency instructed all nursing homes/health centres to delete the work sheets immediately. Due to the way the data was stored, it is not possible to determine who exactly accessed the data and when, and whether unauthorised persons were among them.

In calculating the amount of the fine, the Data Protection Agency has taken into account that the City of Oslo reported the incident itself and has taken quick steps to delete the data. It was also taken into account that the incident occurred for the most part in the period before the new Data Protection Act (in force since July 2018) came into force and that under the old Data Protection Act the maximum amount of a fine was €100,000.

Data Leak of South African IT firm exposes over 1 Million Web Browsing Records

18. December 2019

Security researchers at vpnMentor recently discovered an unsecured and unencrypted database owned by the South African information and communications technology (ICT) company Conor. The breached database consisted of daily logs of user activity by customers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that used web filtering software built by Conor.

The leak exposed all internet traffic and activity, along with their personally identifying information and highly sensitive and private information. For two months it revealed activity logs such as website URLs, IP addresses, index names and MSISDN codes which identify mobile users on a specific network. The details contained in this breach included highly sensitive web browsing activity like attempts to visit pornography websites, social media accounts, online storage including iCloud and messaging apps such as WhatsApp. In total, this resulted in 890+ GB of data and over 1 million records being exposed.

“Because the database gave access to a complete record of each user’s activity in a session, our team was able to view every website they visited – or attempted to visit. We could also identify each user,” the vpnMentor team explained in their statement. “For an ICT and software development company not to protect this data is incredibly negligent. Conor’s lapse in data security could create real-world problems for the people exposed.”

Such an incident could make Conor suffer significant reputational damage and integrity loss. In addition, it exposed how their filter system worked and ways to circumvent it. This could lead to their product becoming ineffective against attempts to bypass it, making it redundant. In result, the outcome may lead to a loss of business for Conor, since clients may no longer feel like they can trust the company and the values they propose.

Austrian data protection authority imposes 18 million euro fine

22. November 2019

The Austrian Data Protection Authority (DPA) has imposed a fine of 18 million euros on Österreichische Post AG (Austrian Postal Service) for violations of the GDPR.

The company had among other things collected data on the “political affinity” from 2.2 million customers, and thus violated the GDPR. Parties should be able to send purposeful election advertising to the Austrian inhabitants with this information.

In addition, they also collected data on the frequency of parcel deliveries and the relocation probability of customers, so that these can be used for direct marketing.

The penalty is not yet final. Österreichische Post AG, half of which belongs to the Austrian state, can appeal the decision before the Federal Administrative Court. The company has already announced its intention to take legal action.

Berlin commissioner for data protection imposes fine on real estate company

6. November 2019

On October 30th, 2019, the Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information issued a fine of around 14.5 million euros against the real estate company Deutsche Wohnen SE for violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

During on-site inspections in June 2017 and March 2019, the supervisory authority determined that the company used an archive system for the storage of personal data of tenants that did not provide for the possibility of removing data that was no longer required. Personal data of tenants were stored without checking whether storage was permissible or even necessary. In individual cases, private data of the tenants concerned could therefore be viewed, even though some of them were years old and no longer served the purpose of their original survey. This involved data on the personal and financial circumstances of tenants, such as salary statements, self-disclosure forms, extracts from employment and training contracts, tax, social security and health insurance data and bank statements.

After the commissioner had made the urgent recommendation to change the archive system in the first test date of 2017, the company was unable to demonstrate either a cleansing of its database nor legal reasons for the continued storage in March 2019, more than one and a half years after the first test date and nine months after the GDPR came into force. Although the enterprise had made preparations for the removal of the found grievances, nevertheless these measures did not lead to a legal state with the storage of personal data. Therefore the imposition of a fine was compelling because of a violation of article 25 Abs. 1 GDPR as well as article 5 GDPR for the period between May 2018 and March 2019.

The starting point for the calculation of fines is, among other things, the previous year’s worldwide sales of the affected companies. According to its annual report for 2018, the annual turnover of Deutsche Wohnen SE exceeded one billion euros. For this reason, the legally prescribed framework for the assessment of fines for the established data protection violation amounted to approximately 28 million euros.

For the concrete determination of the amount of the fine, the commissioner used the legal criteria, taking into account all burdening and relieving aspects. The fact that Deutsche Wohnen SE had deliberately set up the archive structure in question and that the data concerned had been processed in an inadmissible manner over a long period of time had a particularly negative effect. However, the fact that the company had taken initial measures to remedy the illegal situation and had cooperated well with the supervisory authority in formal terms was taken into account as a mitigating factor. Also with regard to the fact that the company was not able to prove any abusive access to the data stored, a fine in the middle range of the prescribed fine framework was appropriate.

In addition to sanctioning this violation, the commissioner imposed further fines of between 6,000 and 17,000 euros on the company for the inadmissible storage of personal data of tenants in 15 specific individual cases.

The decision on the fine has not yet become final. Deutsche Wohnen SE can lodge an appeal against this decision.

Data Incident at H&M in Germany

28. October 2019

According to a report of the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘ (FAZ), personal data of H&M employees working in the customer center of H&M in Nuremberg, were leaked to other H&M employees who should not have access to this kind of data.

The concerned personal data result of personnel interviews between employees and mangers. The managers stored the personal information, inter alia health data and information on the private life of employees, in files which should have been only accessible for managers, but according to the report, also other H&M employees besides the managers could access the files and thus the confidential employee data.

At the customer center in Nuremberg work several hundreds employees. These were informed by the board of H&M on Wednesday last week, October 23rd 2019, about the data incident. On the following day the board announced, that all stored in the files, was deleted and that measures were taken to ensure data security. Additionally, the data protection officer of H&M in Nuremberg as well as the competent data protection authority were notified about the data incident.

Category: Data breach · GDPR
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German data protection authorities develop fining concept under GDPR

24. October 2019

In a press release, the German Conference of Data Protection Authorities (Datenschutzkonferenz, “DSK”) announced that it is currently developing a concept for the setting of fines in the event of breaches of the GDPR by companies. The goal is to guarantee a systematic, transparent and comprehensible fine calculation.

The DSK clarifies that this concept has not yet been adopted, but is still in draft stage and will be further worked on. At present it is practiced accompanying with current fine proceedings in order to test it for its practical suitability and aiming accuracy. However, the concrete decisions are nevertheless based on Art. 83 GDPR.

Art. 70 Para. 1 lit. k of the GDPR demands a harmonization of the fine setting within Europe. Therefore guidelines shall be elaborated. For this reason, the DSK draft will be brought into line with the concepts of other EU member states.

Also, at European level a European concept is currently being negotiated. This concept should then be laid down in a guideline, at least in principle. The DSK has also contributed its considerations on the assessment.

The fine concept will be discussed further on 6th and 7th November. After prior examination, a decision will be taken on whether the concept on the setting of fines shall be published.

Category: Data breach · EU · GDPR
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Data Breach: Millions of patient data available on the Internet

20. September 2019

As reported by the US investment platform ProPublica and the German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, millions of highly sensitive patient data were discovered freely accessible on the Internet.

Among the data sets are high-resolution X-ray images, breast cancer screenings, CT scans and other medical images. Most of them are provided with personal data such as birth dates, names and information about their doctor and their medical treatment. The data could be found for years on unprotected servers.

In Germany, around 13,000 data records are affected, and more than 16 million worldwide, including more than 5 million patients in the USA.

When X-ray or MRI images of patients are taken, they are stored on “Picture Archiving Communication System” (PACS) servers. If these servers are not sufficiently secured, it is easy to access the data. In 2016, Oleg Pianykh, Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, published a study on unsecured PACS servers. He was able to locate more than 2700 open systems, but the study did not prompt anyone in the industry to act.

The German Federal Ministry for Information Security has now informed authorities in 46 countries. Now it remains to be seen how they will react to the incident.

Ecuadorian Data Breach reveals Data of over 20 Million People

19. September 2019

On Monday, 16th of September, it has been revealed that the detailed information of potencially every citizen of Ecuador has been freely available online as part of a massive data breach resulting from an incorrectly configured database. The leak, detected by security researchers of vpnMentor during a routine large-scale web mapping project, exposed more than 20 million individuals, inclusing close to 7 million children, giving access to 18 GB of data.

In effect Ecuador counts close to 17 million citizens, making it possible that almost every citizen has had some data compromised. This also includes government officials, high profile persons like Julian Assange, and the Ecuadorian President.

In their report, vpnMentor designates that it was able to track the server back to its owner, an ecuadorian company named Novaestrat, which is a consulting company providing services in data analytics, strategic marketing and software development.

It also mentioned several examples of the entries it had found in the database, including the types of data that were leaked. Those came down to full names, gender and birth information, home and e-mail adresses, telephone numbers, financial information, family members and employment information.

Access to the data has been cut off by the ecuadorian Computer Emergency Response Team, but the highly private and sensitive nature of the leaked information could create long lasting privacy issues for the citizens of the country.

In a twitter post, Telecommunications Minister Andres Michelena announced that the data protection bill, which had been in the works for months, will be submitted to the National Assembly within 72 hours. On top of that, an investigation into the possibility of a violation of personal privacy by Novaestrat has been opened.

Swedish DPA imposed ist first GDPR fine

23. August 2019

The Swedish Data Protection Authority “datainspektionen” imposed its first fine since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has entered into force.

Affected is a high school in Skelleftea in the north of Sweden. In the school, 22 pupils were part of a pilot programme to monitor attendance times using facial recognition.

In January 2019, the IT company Tieto announced that it was testing the presence of students at the school with tags, spartphone apps and facial recognition software for automatic registration of students. In Sweden, it is mandatory for teachers to report the presence of all students in each lesson to the supervisors. According to Tieto, teachers at the school in Skelleftea spend around 18,000 hours a year on this registration. Therefore, a class was selected for the pilot project to test the registration for eight weeks using facial recognition. Parents and students were asked to give their consent.

However, the Swedish data protection authority has now said that the way in which consent was obtained violates the GDPR because of the clear imbalance between controller and data subject. Additionally the school failed to conduct an impact assessment including seeking prior consultation with datainspektionen.

Therefore, the DPA imposed a fine of SEK 200.000 (approximately EUR 20.000). In Sweden, public authorities can be fined up to SEK 20.000.000 (approximately EUR 1.000.000).

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