Retailer fined £500,000 for failing to secure data of “at least” 14 million individuals

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined DSG Retail Limited the sum of £500,000 after a ‘Point of Sale’ computer system was compromised as the result of a cyber attack, in turn affecting at least 14 million people.

An ICO investigation found that an attacker installed malware on 5,390 tills at DSG Retail Limited’s Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores between July 2017 and April 2018, collecting personal data during the nine-month period before the attack was detected.

The company’s failure to secure the system allowed unauthorised access to 5.6 million payment card details used in transactions and the personal information of approximately 14 million individuals, including full names, postcodes, e-mail addresses and failed credit checks from internal servers.

DSG Retail Limited breached the Data Protection Act 1998 by having poor security arrangements in place and failing to take adequate steps to protect personal data. This included vulnerabilities such as inadequate software patching, the absence of a local firewall and a lack of network segregation and routine security testing.

In January 2018, the ICO fined Carphone Warehouse, itself part of the same company group, a total of £400,000 for similar security vulnerabilities.

Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s director of investigations, said: “Our investigation found systemic failures in the way DSG Retail Limited safeguarded personal data. It’s very concerning that these failures related to basic and 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 General Data Protection Regulation.”

The ICO considered that the personal data involved would significantly affect individuals’ privacy, leaving affected customers vulnerable to financial theft and identity fraud. The ICO received 158 complaints between June 2018 and November 2018 from DSG Retail Limited’s customers. As of March 2019, the company reported that nearly 3,300 customers had contacted the business group directly in relation to this data breach.

Eckersley added: “Such careless loss of data is likely to have caused distress to many people since the data breach left them exposed to an increased risk of fraud. We recognise that cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, but organisations have responsibilities under the law to take serious security steps to protect systems and, most importantly, people’s personal data.”

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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