Category: Data breach

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).

Millions of unencrypted biometric data discovered on the internet

19. August 2019

The Israeli security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar discovered the unprotected and mostly unencrypted database of Biostar 2 during an Internet search.

Biostar 2 is a web-based biometric locking system that provides centralized control of access to secure facilities such as warehouses and office buildings. The researchers were given access to over 27.8 million records and 23 gigabytes of data, including fingerprint data, facial recognition data, facial photos of users, user names and passwords, and protocols for accessing facilities. Among others, the system is used by the British Metropolitan Police, insurance companies and banks.

Rotem told the Guardian: “The access allows first of all seeing millions of users are using this system to access different locations and see in real time which user enters which facility or which room in each facility, even.”
He also states that they were able to change data and add new users. So they could have added their own photo and fingerprint to an existing user account and could have had access to the buildings that user had access to or could have added a new user with their own photo and fingerprints.

The intensity of this data breach was particularly large because Biostar 2 is used in 1.5 million locations around the world and fingerprints, unlike passwords, cannot be changed.
Before Rotem and Locar turned to the Guardian, they made several attempts to contact Suprema, the security company responsible for Biostar 2. Meanwhile, the vulnerability has been closed.

To the Guardian, Suprema’s marketing director said they had conducted an “in-depth evaluation” of the information provided: “If there has been any definite threat on our products and/or services, we will take immediate actions and make appropriate announcements to protect our customers’ valuable businesses and assets.”

Rotem said that such problems not only occur at Suprema, but that he contacts three or four companies a week with similar problems.

Irish DPC releases guide on Data Breach Notifications

15. August 2019

On Monday the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) has released a quick guide on Data Breach Notifications. It is supposed to help controllers understand their obligations regarding notification and communication requirements, both to the responsible DPC and to the data subject.

The guide, which is supposed to be a quick overview of the requirements and obligations which fall on data controllers, refers to the Article 29 Working Party’s (now European Data Protection Board or EDPB), much more in depth and detailed, guidance in their guideline concerning Data Breach Notifications.

In summary, the IDPC categorizes a Data Breach as a “security incident that negatively impacts the confidentiality, integrity or availability of personal data; meaning that the controller is unable to ensure compliance with the principles relating to the processing of personal data as outlined in Art. 5 GDPR”. In this case, it falls to the controller to follow two primary obligations: (1) to notify the responsible DPC of the data breach, unless it is unlikely to result in a risk for the data subject, and (2) to communicate the data breach to the affected data subjects, when it is likely to result in a high risk.

The IDPC seeks to help controllers by providing a list of requirements in cases of notification to the DPC and data subjects, especially given the tight timeframe for notifications to be filed within 72 hours of awareness of the breach. It is hoping to eliminate confusion arising in the process, as well as problems that companies have had while filing a Data Breach Notification in the past.

CNIL fines French insurance company

26. July 2019

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) imposed a € 180.000 fine on a French insurance company for violating customer data security on their website.

Active Assurance is an insurance intermediary and distributor of motor insurances to customers. On their website, people can request offers, subscribe to contracts and access their personal space.

In 2018, CNIL received a complaint from an Active Assurance customer, saying that he had been able access other users’ data. The other accounts were accessible via hypertext links referred on a search engine. Customers’ documents were also available by slightly changing the URL. Among those records were drivers’ licences, bank statements and documents revealing whether someone has been subject of a licence withdrawal or hit and run.

CNIL informed the company about the violations and a few days later, the company stated that measures had been taken to rectify the infringements. After an on-site audit at the company’s premises, CNIL found that the measures taken were not sufficient and that Active Assurance violates Art. 32 GDPR. Active Assurance should have ensured that only authorized persons had access to the documents. The company should have also instructed the customers to use strong passwords and it should not have send them the passwords in plain text by e-mail.

Based on the seriousness of the breach and the number of people involved, CNIL imposed a fine of € 180.000.

Google data breach notification sent to IDPC

18. July 2019

Google may face further investigations under the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), after unauthorized audio recordings have been forwarded to subcontractors. The Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) has confirmed through a spokesperson that they have received a data breach notification concerning the issue last week.

The recordings were exposed by the Belgian broadcast VRT, said to affect 1000 clips of conversations in the region of Belgium and the Netherlands. Being logged by Google Assistant, the recordings were then sent to Google’s subcontractors for review. At least 153 of those recordings were not authorized by Google’s wake phrase “Ok/Hey, Google,” and were never meant to be recorded in the first place. They contained personal data reaching from family conversations over bedroom chatter to business calls with confidential information.

Google has addressed this violation of their data security policies in a blog post. It said that the audio recordings were sent to experts, who understand nuances and accents, in order to refine Home’s linguistic abilities, which is a critical part in the process of building speech technology. Google stresses that the storing of recorded data on its services is turned off by default, and only sends audio data to Google once its wake phrase is said. The recordings in question were most likely initiated by the users saying a phrase that sounded similar to “Ok/Hey, Google,” therefore confusing Google Assistant and turning it on.

According to Google’s statement, Security and Privacy teams are working on the issue and will fully review its safeguards to prevent this sort of misconduct from happening again. If, however, following investigations by the IDPC discover a GDPR violation on the matter, it could result in significant financial penalty for the tech giant.

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