Bupa fined £175,000 by Information Commissioner’s Office for “systemic data protection failures”

Bupa Insurance Services Limited (Bupa) has been fined £175,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failing to have effective security measures in place to protect customers’ personal information. 

Between 6 January and 11 March last year, a Bupa employee was able to extract the personal information of 547,000 Bupa Global customers and offer it for sale on The Dark Web. The employee accessed the information via Bupa’s Customer Relationship Management system, known as SWAN. The system holds customer records relating to 1.5 million people.

The employee sent bulk data reports to his personal e-mail account. The compromised information, which included names, dates of birth, e-mail addresses and nationalities, was later offered for sale on The Dark Web.

Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s director of investigations, said: “Bupa failed to recognise that people’s personal data was at risk and failed to take reasonable steps to secure it. Our investigation found material inadequacies in the way Bupa safeguarded personal data. The inadequacies were systemic and appear to have gone unchecked for a long time. On top of that, the ICO’s investigation found no satisfactory explanation for them.”

Bupa was alerted to the breach on 16 June 2017 by an external partner who spotted customer data for sale.

Bupa and the ICO received 198 complaints about the incident. The rogue employee was dismissed and Sussex Police issued a warrant for his arrest.

The ICO’s investigation found that, at the time, Bupa did not routinely monitor SWAN’s activity log. Bupa was unaware of a defect in the system and unable to detect unusual activity, such as the bulk extractions of data. Failing to keep personal data secure is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The investigation process revealed systemic failures in Bupa’s technical and organisational measures which also left 1.5 million records at risk for a long time.

Due to the timing of this case, it was dealt with under the provisions and maximum penalties of the Data Protection Act 1998 and not the General Data Protection Regulation and 2018 Data Protection Act which replaced it in May.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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