Six-month prison sentence for motor industry employee in first ICO Computer Misuse Act prosecution

A motor industry employee has been sentenced to six months in prison in the first prosecution to be brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under legislation which carries a potential prison sentence.

Mustafa Kasim, who worked for accident repair firm Nationwide Accident Repair Services, accessed thousands of  customer records containing personal data without permission, using his colleagues’ log-in details to access a software system (known as Audatex) that estimates the cost of vehicle repairs.

Kasim continued to do this after he started a new job at a different car repair organisation which used the same software system. The records contained customers’ names, phone numbers, vehicle and accident information.

Nationwide Accident Repair Services contacted the ICO when it saw an increase in customer complaints about nuisance calls and assisted the ICO with its investigation.

The ICO usually prosecutes cases like this under the Data Protection Act 1998 or 2018, depending on the individual case. However,  in appropriate cases, it can prosecute under other legislation – in this case Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990  – to reflect the nature and extent of the offending and for the sentencing court to have a wider range of penalties available.

Prosecuting beyond data protection laws

Mike Shaw, head of criminal investigations at the ICO, said: “People who think it’s worth their while to obtain and disclose personal data without permission should think again. Although this was a data protection issue, in this case we were able to prosecute beyond data protection laws resulting in a tougher penalty to reflect the nature of the criminal behaviour. Members of the public and organisations can be assured that we will push the boundaries and use any tool at our disposal to protect their rights.”

Shaw added: “Data obtained in these circumstances is a valuable commodity. There was evidence of customers receiving unwarranted calls from claims management companies causing unnecessary anxiety and distress. The potential reputational damage to affected companies whose data is stolen in this way can be immeasurable. Both Nationwide Accident Repair Services and Audatex have put appropriate technical and organisational measures in place to ensure that this cannot happen again.”

Kasim pleaded guilty to a charge of securing unauthorised access to personal data between 13 January 2016 and 19 October 2016 at a hearing in September 2018 and was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court.

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, designed to recover any benefit obtained as a result of the offending, have been commenced and are ongoing.

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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