Tag: Data breach

Hackers access Microsoft source codes

7. January 2021

In December 2020 cybersecurity firm FireEye reported that it had been attacked by what they called a “highly sophisticated cyber threat actor”, during which copies of its red team tool kit were stolen. Also in December, FireEye disclosed that it discovered attacks on SolarWinds’ tool “Orion” while investigating its own security breach. In a SEC filing, SolarWinds said up to 18,000 of 33,000 Orion customers may have been affected. The attacks may have begun in early 2020.

A group believed to be state-sponsored used contaminated updates for the “Orion” network management software. They accessed a SolarWinds system used to update Orion and from there inserted malicious code into legitimate software updates that were then distributed to customers. The affected versions are 2019.4 through 2020.2.1, which were released between March and June 2020. It is still unclear how the attackers initially gained access to SolarWinds’ network. Security researcher Vinoth Kumar stated on Twitter he contacted SolarWinds in 2019 regarding an FTP access uploaded to GitHub in 2018. Using the password “solarwinds123,” he was able to upload a file to the SolarWinds server as proof of the vulnerability.

Agencies and companies that have been penetrated by the Orion software include the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration, parts of the Pentagon, Belkin, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and Nvidia.
The FBI and other U.S. security agencies issued a joint statement calling the attack “significant and ongoing”. Also, agencies and companies in other countries such as Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates were affected.

So far, it is unclear what damage, if any, was caused by the attacks and what data was accessed. According to reports, in some cases, internal communications were accessed and various documents were copied, with documents relating to ongoing product development, in particular, attracting the attackers’ interest. In an interview published by the U.S. State Department, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo claimed Russia was responsible for the attack.

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”

Among those affected, Microsoft is being most viral regarding the hack. In a blog post published on December 31, the company even admitted that the hackers had access to its source codes. According to that post, they were able to view the code but not modify it. Still, this could pose a significant security risk, as the attackers can now study the software’s architecture and look for possible entry points. Microsoft won’t reveal which tool’s source codes the attackers had access to. It also identified more than 40 of its own customers who were targeted.
Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote:

“This is not just an attack on specific targets but on the trust and reliability of the world’s critical infrastructure in order to advance one nation’s intelligence agency.”

This cyber-attack shows the importance of strong cybersecurity for every company and private user, as even tech-giants and fundamental U.S. authorities were victims of this attack. In particular, access to Microsoft’s source codes could be the ground for further attacks on high- and low-profile targets, as Microsoft’s tools are used in businesses of all sizes and by individuals as well.

16 Million brazilian COVID-19 patients’ personal data exposed online

7. December 2020

In November 2020, personal and sensitive health data of about 16 Million brazilian COVID-19 patients has been leaked on the online platform GitHub. The cause was a hospital employee, that uploaded a spreadsheet with usernames, passwords, and access keys to sensitive government systems on the online platforms. Under those affected were also the brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his family as well as seven ministers and 17 provincial governors.

Under the exposed systems were two government databases used to store information on COVID-19 patients. The first “E-SUS-VE” was used for recording COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, while the second “Sivep-Gripe” was used to keep track of hospitalized cases across the country.

However, both systems contained highly sensitive personal information such as patient names, addresses, telephone numbers, individual taxpayer’s ID information, but also healthcare records such as medical history and medication regimes.

The leak was discovered after a GitHub user spotted the spreadsheet containing the password information on the personal GitHub account of an employee of the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paolo. The user informed the Brazilian newspaper Estadao, which analysed the information shared on the platform before it notified the hospital and the health ministry of Brazil.

The spreadsheet was ultimately removed from GitHub, while government officials changed passwords and revoked access keys to secure their systems after the leak.

However, Estadao reporters confirmed that the leaked data included personal data of Brazilians across all 27 states.

Admonition for revealing a list of people quarantined in Poland

27. November 2020

The President of the Personal Data Protection Office in Poland (UODO) imposed an admonition on a company dealing with waste management liable for a data breach and ordered to notify the concerned data subjects. The admonition is based on a violation of personal data pertaining to data subjects under medical quarantine. The city name, street name, building/flat number and the fact of remaining under quarantine of the affected data subjects have been provided by the company to unauthorized recipients. The various recipients were required to verify whether, in a given period, waste was to be collected from places determined in the above-mentioned list.

The incident already happened in April 2020. Back then, a list of data subjects was made public, containing information on who had been quarantined by the administrative decision of the District Sanitary-Epidemiological Station (PPIS) in Gniezno as well as information on quarantined data subjects in connection with crossing the country border and on data subjects undergoing home isolation due to a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. After becoming aware of the revelation, the Director of PPIS notified the relevant authorities – the District Prosecutor’s Office and the President of UODO – about the incident.

PPIS informed them that it had carried out explanatory activities showing that the source of disclosure of these data was not PPIS. These data were provided to the District Police Headquarters, the Head of the Polish Post Office, Social Welfare Centres and the Headquarters of the State Fire Service. Considering the fact that these data had been processed by various parties involved, it was necessary to establish in which of them the breach may have occurred.

UODO took steps to clarify the situation. In the course of the proceedings, it requested information from a company dealing with waste management being one of the recipients of the personal data. The company, acting as the data controller, had to explain whether, when establishing the procedures related to the processing of personal data, it had carried out an assessment of the impact of the envisaged processing operations on the protection of personal data according to Art. 35 GDPR. The assessment persists in an analysis of the distribution method in electronic and paper form in terms of risks related to the loss of confidentiality. Furthermore, the data controller had to inform UODO about the result of this analysis.

The data controller stated that it had conducted an analysis considering the circumstances related to non-compliance with the procedures in force by data processors and circumstances related to theft or removal of data. Moreover, the data controller expressed the view that the list, received from the District Police Headquarters, only included administrative (police) addresses and did not contain names, surnames and other data allowing the identification of a natural person. Thus, the GDPR would not apply, because the data has to be seen as anonymized. However, from the list also emerged the fact that residents of these buildings/flats were placed in quarantine, which made it possible to identify them. It came out that the confidentiality of the processed data had been violated in the course of the performance of employee duties of the data processor, who had left the printed list on the desk without proper supervision. During this time, another employee had recorded the list in the form of a photo and had shared it with another person.

Following the review of the entirety of the collected material in this case, UODO considered that the information regarding the city name, street name, building/flat number and placing a data subject in medical quarantine, constitute personal data within the meaning of Art. 4 (1) GDPR, while the last comprises a special category of personal data concerning health according to Art. 9 (1) GDPR. Based on the above, it is possible to identify the data subjects, and therefore the data controller is bound to the obligations arising from the GDPR.

In the opinion of UODO, the protective measures indicated in the risk analysis are general formulations, which do not refer to specific activities undertaken by authorized employees. The measures are insufficient and inadequate to the risks of processing special categories of data. In addition, the data controller should have considered factors, such as recklessness and carelessness of employees and a lack of due diligence.

According to Art. 33 (1) GDPR, the data controller shall without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of the data breach, notify it to the competent supervisory authority. Moreover, in a situation of high risk to the rights and freedoms of the data subjects, resulting from the data breach (which undoubtedly arose from the disclosure), the data controller is obliged to inform the data subject without undue delay in accordance with Art. 34 (1) GDPR. Despite this, the company did not report the infringement, neither to the President of UODO nor to the concerned data subjects.

EDPB adopts first decision under Art. 65 GDPR

20. November 2020

During its 41st plenary session, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) adopted by a two-thirds majority of its members its first dispute resolution decision under Art. 65 GDPR regarding Twitter International Company. The binding decision aims to resolve a dispute arisen from a draft decision by the Irish supervisory authority, being the lead supervisory authority in that case, and subsequent relevant and reasoned objections raised by several authorities concerned.

The Irish supervisory authority prepared a draft decision following an own-initiative investigation into Twitter International Company, after the company had notified the Irish supervisory authority of a personal data breach on January 8th, 2019. According to Art. 60 (3) GDPR, the Irish supervisory authority submitted its draft decision to the other authorities concerned in May 2020, which had the opportunity to express their objections within a period of four weeks afterwards. They referred to, inter alia, violations of the GDPR identified by the lead supervisory authority, the role of Twitter International Company as the sole data controller, and the quantification of the proposed fine.

Due to the fact that the lead supervisory authority rejected the objections and/or considered them not to be “relevant and reasoned”, it submitted the matter to the EDPB pursuant to Art. 60 (4) GDPR, thus initiating the dispute resolution procedure.

Thereupon, the completeness of the file was evaluated, that led to the institution of legal proceedings stated in Art. 65 GDPR on September 8th, 2020. In accordance with Art. 65 (3) GDPR and in conjunction with Art. 11.4 of the EDPB Rules of Procedure, the default time period of one month was extended by a further month on account of the complexity of the subject-matter.

On November 9th, 2020, the EDPB adopted its binding decision and will shortly notify it to the Irish supervisory authority, which, on the other hand, will issue a final decision. It will be addressed to the data controller without undue delay and at the latest by one month after the EDPB has notified its decision. In compliance with the requirements of Art. 65 (6) GDPR, the lead supervisory authority shall inform the EDPB of the date when its final decision is notified respectively to the controller. After that, the EDPB decision will be published on its website.

Patients blackmailed after data breach at Finnish private psychotherapy center

9. November 2020

An unknown party breached Vastaamo, a Finnish private psychotherapy center. They accessed the electronic patient record, gathering thousands of confidential patient records.  According to a message left on a Finnish web-forum, they accessed up to 40 000 confidential records of psychotherapy patients. These include not only confidential information regarding therapy sessions but also personal information, such as the social security number. In Finland, this number allows the user to take on credits or found companies. On September 29th Vastaamo notified the Finnish authorities, while they notified the affected via E-Mail and letter after October 21st.

Though the attack prompted an emergency meeting of the Finnish Cabinet, up until now neither Finnish authorities nor Vastaamo released information regarding the nature of the breach.

The initial breach likely occurred in November 2018, while it is believed, there was a second attack that occurred before March 2019. In September 2020, the hackers contacted Vastaamo, demanding a payment of 40 Bitcoin (€ 450 000,00). Vastaamo refused to pay and instead contacted the police and other Finnish authorities. On instruction by the Finnish National Police, Vastaamo published information regarding the data breach, only after some of the data was published on the Tor Network on October 21st. Furthermore, the Board dismissed former CEO Ville Tapio, claiming he concealed the breach.

Further, in late October, the hackers sent messages to patients and employees of Vastaamo, threatening to post their patient files on the internet and demanding payments in Bitcoin. The national police advised victims not to pay the hacker, and instead asked them to save extortion emails or other evidence and file a police report. Until October 30th, Finland’s national police received up to 15 000 reports of offenses regarding this data-breach.

The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health started an investigation of Vastaamo, while the Social Insurance Institution of Finland stopped referrals to Vastaamo.

Ever since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the healthcare and the public health sectors are attacked more frequently, especially in the form of ransomware. The FBI’s Cyber Security Unit (CISA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have issued a joint advisory regarding the matter. Adding onto that, according to IBM’s annual Cost of a Data Breach Report, the healthcare sector has the highest average breach cost, at 7.13 million per breach.

Appeal against record fine for GDPR violation in Poland dismissed

22. October 2020

On 10th September 2019 the Polish Data Protection Commissioner imposed a record fine in the amount of more than PLN 2,8 million or the equivalent of € 660.000 on the company Morele.net for violating the implementation of appropriate technical and organisational measures as well as the lack of verifiability of the prior consents to data processing. The Krakow-based company runs various online shops and stores customer data on a central database. According to the Personal Data Protection Office (UODO), there has been 2,2 million customers affected.

Starting point were especially two incidents at the end of 2018, when unauthorised persons got access to the customer database of the company and the contained personal data. The company notified the data breach to the UODO, which accused it particularly of violation of the confidentiality principle (Articles 5 (1) lit. f, 24 (1), 25 (1), 32 (1) lit. b, d, (2) GDPR) by failing to use sufficient technical and organisational measures to safeguard the data of its customers, such as a two-factor authentication. As claimed by the UODO, the selection of the authentication mechanism should always be preceded by an adequate risk analysis with a corresponding determination of protection requirements. The company did not adequately comply with this. However, it should have been sufficiently aware of the phishing risks as the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Polska) had already pointed it out.

In addition, the UODO accused the company of violation of the lawfulness, fairness, transparency and accountability principles (Articles 5 (1) lit. a, (2), 6 (1), 7 (1) GDPR) by not being able to prove that (where necessary) the personal data from installment applications had been processed on the basis of consents of data subjects. Furthermore, after a risk analysis, the company deleted the corresponding data from the database in December 2018, but according to the UODO, the deletion was not sufficiently documented.

When assessing the fine, there were many aspects which played a decisive role. Most of all, the extent of the violation (2,2 million customers) and the fact that the company processes personal data professionally in the course of its business activities and therefore has to apply a higher level of security. However, mitigating circumstances were also taken into account, such as the good cooperation with the supervisory authority, no previous ascertainable violations of the GDPR and no identifiable financial advantages for the company.

On 3rd September 2020, the Provincial Administrative Court (WSA) in Warsaw issued a judgment on Morele.net’s appeal against the decision. The WSA dismissed the appeal and considered that the decision on the fine imposed on the company was justified. Furthermore, the WSA stated that the UODO had correctly assessed the facts in the case concerned and considered that the fine imposed was high but within the limits of the law and justified by circumstances. It is expected that the company will lodge a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland.

Consequences of the 2017 Equifax Data Breach

16. April 2020

It has been almost two years since the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax suffered a massive Data Breach.

Back in May 2017 Equifax has been hacked, but the operators first noticed the breach much later, at the end of July 2017 and informed the public on the beginning of September 2017.

The disclosure of sensitive data from approximately 143 million, not only US based consumers, was to be feared (we reported).

After the breach Equifax invested $ 200 million on the data security infrastructure and found itself in the middle of class action suits.

Now, two years after the hack, Reuters reports the settlement of a lawsuit in connection with which Equifax pays $ 19.5 million to Indiana and also the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports a $ 1.5 million settlement between the city of Chicago and Equifax.

Besides Indiana also Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Equifax, which is reported to be settled as well – the amount of the settlement is not yet known.

UK: Betting companies had access to millions of data of children

28. January 2020

In the UK, betting companies have gained access to data from 28 million children under 14 and adolescents. The data was stored in a government database and could be used for learning purposes. Access to the platform is granted by the government. A company that was given access is said to have illegally given it to another company, which in turn allowed access for the betting companies. The betting providers used the access, among other things, to check age information online. The company accused of passing on the access denies the allegations, but has not yet made any more specific statements.

The British Department for Education speaks of an unacceptable situation. All access points have been closed and the cooperation has been terminated.

Category: Data breach · General · UK
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Germany: Large Data leak reveals Personal Data of more than 3 Million Customers

27. January 2020

The German car rental company Buchbinder is responsible for leaking Personal Data of more than 3 Million customers from all over Europe. The data leak exposed more than 10 Terabyte of sensitive customer data over several weeks without the company noticing it.

A German cybersecurity firm was executing routine network scans when it found the data leak. The firm reported it twice to Buchbinder via e-mail, but did not receive a reply. After that, the cybersecurity firm reported the leak to the Bavarian Data Protection Authority (DPA) and informed the German computer magazine c’t and newspaper DIE ZEIT.

According to c’t, a configuration error of a Backup-Server was the cause of the leak. The Personal Data exposed included customers’ names, private addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, rental data, bank details, accident reports, legal documents, as well as Buchbinder employees’ e-mails and access data to internal networks.

The data leak is particularly serious because of the vast amount of leaked Personal Data that could easily be abused through Spam e-mails, Fraud, Phishing, or Identity theft. It is therefore likely that the German DPA will impose a GDPR fine on the company in the future.

Buchbinder released a press statement apologising for the data leak and promising to enhance the level of their defense and cybersecurity system.

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.

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