Category: Data breach

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.

Privacy incidents cost Facebook 5 billion dollar

15. July 2019

According to a report of the Washington Post the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a $ 5 billion (approx. € 4,4 billion) settlement with Facebook. The settlement was reached between the FTC and Facebook due to various Data Protection incidents, in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The settlement relies on a three to two vote – the FTC’s three republicans supported the fine the two democrats were against it- and terminates the procedure for investigating Facebook’s privacy violations against users’ personal information. The fine of $ 5 billion is the highest fine ever assessed against a tech company, but even if it sounds like a very high fine, it only corresponds to the amount of the monthly turnover and is therefore not very high in relative terms. So far, the highest fine was $ 22,5 million for Google in 2012.

The decision of the FTC needs to be approved by the Justice Department. As a rule, however, this is a formality.

This is not the first fine Facebook has to accept in connection with various data protection incidents and certainly not the last. Investigations against Facebook are still ongoing in Spain as well as in Germany. In addition, Facebook has been criticized for quite some time for privacy incidents.

Record fine by ICO for British Airways data breach

11. July 2019

After a data breach in 2018, which affected 500 000 customers, British Airways (BA) has now been fined a record £183m by the UK’s Information Commissioners Office (ICO). According to the BBC, Alex Cruz, chairman and CEO of British Airways, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the ICO’s initial findings.

The breach happened by a hacking attack that managed to get a script on to the BA website. Unsuspecting users trying to access the BA website had been diverted to a false website, which collected their information. This information included e-mail addresses, names and credit card information. While BA had stated that they would reimburse every customer that had been affected, its owner IAG declared through its chief executive that they would take “all appropriate steps to defend the airline’s position”.

The ICO said that it was the biggest penalty that they had ever handed out and made public under the new rules of the GDPR. “When an organization fails to protect personal data from loss, damage or theft, it is more than an inconvenience,” ICO Commissioner Elizabeth Dunham said to the press.

In fact, the GDPR allows companies to be fined up to 4% of their annual turnover over data protection infringements. In relation, the fine of £183m British Airways received equals to 1,5% of its worldwide turnover for the year 2017, which lies under the possible maximum of 4%.

BA can still put forth an appeal in regards to the findings and the scale of the fine, before the ICO’s final decision is made.

CNIL fines translation company for violating the French Data Protection Act

19. June 2019

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) recently fined UNIONTRAD COMPANY €20,000 for excessive video surveillance of employees.

UNIONTRAD COMPANY is a small French translation company with nine employees. Between 2013 and 2017, several employees complained that they were filmed at their workspaces. The CNIL alerted the company two times to the rules for installing cameras at the workspace, particularly that employees should not be filmed continuously and that information on present cameras should be given.

In an audit carried out at the company’s grounds in February 2018, the CNIL discovered among other things that the camera in the office of six translators filmed them constantly, no sufficient information about the cameras had been provided and the computer workspaces were not secured by a password.

In July 2018, the President of the CNIL issued a formal notice to the company, asking it to inter alia move the camera to no longer film the employees constantly; inform the employees about the cameras and implement appropriate security measures for access to computer workspaces.

A second audit in October 2018 showed that the company had not taken any actions for the violations. The CNIL now imposed a fine of €20,000 considering the size and financial situation of the company.

Spanish DPA imposes fine on Spanish football league

13. June 2019

The Spanish data protection authority Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) has imposed a fine of 250.000 EUR on the organisers of the two Spanish professional football leagues for data protection infringements.

The organisers, Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), operate an app called “La Liga”, which aims to uncover unlicensed performances of games broadcasted on pay-TV. For this purpose, the app has recorded a sample of the ambient sounds during the game times to detect any live game transmissions and combined this with the location data. Privacy-ticker already reported.

AEPD criticized that the intended purpose of the collected data had not been made transparent enough, as it is necessary according to Art. 5 paragraph 1 GDPR. Users must approve the use explicitly and the authorization for the microphone access can also be revoked in the Android settings. However, AEPD is of the opinion that La Liga has to warn the user of each data processing by microphone again. In the resolution, the AEPD points out that the nature of the mobile devices makes it impossible for the user to remember what he agreed to each time he used the La Liga application and what he did not agree to.

Furthermore, AEPD is of the opinion that La Liga has violated Art. 7 paragraph 3 GDPR, according to which the user has the possibility to revoke his consent to the use of his personal data at any time.

La Liga rejects the sanction because of injustice and will proceed against it. It argues that the AEPD has not made the necessary efforts to understand how the technology works. They explain that the technology used is designed to produce only one particular acoustic fingerprint. This fingerprint contains only 0.75% of the information. The remaining 99.25% is discarded, making it technically impossible to interpret human voices or conversations. This fingerprint is also converted into an alphanumeric code (hash) that is not reversible to the original sound. Nevertheless, the operators of the app have announced that they will remove the controversial feature as of June 30.

US Border Control – traveler photos and license plate images stolen in a data breach

11. June 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBP) announced on Monday, 10th June 2019, that photos of travelers, their cars and their license plate images were stolen during a data breach.

The network of CBP itself was not affected by the breach, but the photos were transferred to a subcontractor and stolen by a hack at the subcontractor. The name of the subcontractor was not mentioned. According to US media reports, the subcontractor is Perceptics which was hacked in May 2019.

CBP announced: “CBP learned that a subcontractor, in violation of CBP policies and without CBP’s authorization or knowledge, had transferred copies of license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP to the subcontractor’s company network.”  CBP has not terminated its cooperation with the hacked subcontractor despite breaches of data protection and security regulations.

CBP was informed about the breach on 31st May 2019. The breach affects nearly 100.000 people who travelled the USA. Besides the photos of travelers, their cars and license plates neither passport or other travel documents nor images of airline passengers were involved. The photos show travellers crossing either the US border to Canada or Mexico.

Until now, the hacked data could neither be found on the Internet nor in the Dark net.

CNIL fines French real estate company for violating the GDPR

7. June 2019

The French Data Protection Authority “Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés” (CNIL) issued a 400k euro fine for the French real estate company “Sergic” for violating the GDPR.
Sergic is specialized in real estate development, purchase, sale, rental and property management and has published the website www.sergic.com , which allows rental candidates to upload the necessary documents for preparing their file.

In August 2018, a Sergic user contacted the CNIL reporting that he had unencrypted access, from his personal space on the website, to other users’ uploaded files by slightly changing the URL. On September 7, 2018, an online check revealed that rental candidates’ uploaded documents were actually freely accessible for others without prior authentication. Among the documents were copies of identity cards, health cards, tax notices and divorce judgements. CNIL informed Sergic on the same day of this security incident and the violation of personal data. It became apparent that Sergic had been aware of this since March 2018 and, even though it had initiated IT developments to correct it, the final correction did not take place until September 17, 2018.

Based on the investigation, the responsible CNIL body found two violations of the GDPR. Firstly, Sergic had failed to fulfil its obligations according to Art. 32 GDPR, which obliges controllers to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a secure level of protection of the personal data. This includes for example a procedure to ensure that personal documents cannot be accessed without prior authentication of the user. In addition, there is the time that the company took to correct the error.

Secondly, the CNIL found out that Sergic kept all the documents sent by candidates in active base, although they had not accessed rental accommodation for more than the time required to allocate housing. According to the GDPR, the controller has the obligation to delete data immediately if they are no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which they were collected or otherwise processed and no other purpose justifies the storage of the data in an active database.

The CNIL imposed a fine of € 400.000 and decided to make its sanction public due to inter alia the seriousness of the breach, the lack of due diligence by the company and the fact that the documents revealed intimate aspects of people’s lives.

Category: Data breach · French DPA · GDPR
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