Tag Archives: dpa

Data Protection Weekly Round-up: PECR breaches, ransomware research and Facebook on security

Two large corporations fined for PECR breaches; Google study reveals ransomware profits, and Facebook urges people-led changes to security methodology

In the blog below, you’ll note how the Information Commissioner’s Office is taking a hard-line approach to PECR.  If an organisation uses electronic channels to re-permission its database in time for GDPR enforcement in May 2018, it must comply with PECR. Moneysupermarket.com is the latest in a series of big names to fall foul of email regulations.

You’ll also see an analysis of ransomware profitability, which helps explain its continued growth;   the final story summarises Facebook’s views on data security.

The ICO issues fines amounting to £160,000 for Provident Personal Credit and Moneysupermarket.com

The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued civil monetary penalties of £80,000 each for Provident Personal Credit, a Bradford-based sub-prime lender, and Moneysupermarket.com, a leading brand comparison site, on the 17th and 20th of July respectively. In both cases the fine was  for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR).

Text confused person

Unsolicited texts annoy prospects and customers 

Quick-loan credit firm Provident Personal Credit, a brand operated by Provident Financial, was fined £80,000 for sending out nearly 1 million nuisance text messages in the space of 6 months.

The company employed a third party affiliate to send the unsolicited marketing for loans provided by a sister brand, Satsuma Loans.

Text messages may not be sent if the recipients have not consented to receiving marketing texts, so this activity was in breach of PECR.

emails out of laptop

Beware of sending “service” emails which are actually “marketing” emails

A few days later, the price and brand comparison website Moneysupermarket.com was fined for sending 7.1 million emails over 10 days updating customers with its Terms and Conditions, despite these customers having explicitly opted-out of receiving this type of email. This offence is almost identical to the breaches for which Morrison’s, Honda and Flybe were fined last month.

One of the key problems was the section “Preference Centre Update” which said: “We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalised news, products and promotions. You’ve told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you’d like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our e-mails.”

In a previous blog, we explained the ambiguity between ‘service’ emails and ‘marketing’ emails when implicitly emailing or communicating marketing content to individuals who have opted out. This is in breach of regulations (which will only get stricter after the General Data Protection Legislation comes into force in May 2018).

Google research leads to fears of proliferating ransomware

ransomware 2

Ransomware encrypts and scrambles victims’ computerised files. The files will not be decrypted until after a ransom is paid

Research carried out by Elie Bursztein, Kylie McRoberts and Luca Invernizzi from Google has found that cyber-thieves have made $25m (£19m) in the last two years through the use of ransomware. The research suggests that this type of malware regularly makes more than $1m (£761,500) for its creators.

The two strains of ransomware that have seen the most success are ‘Locky’ and ‘Cerber,’ which have collected $7.8m (£5.9m) and $6.9m (£5.2) respectively. But fears have arisen that due to the profitability of ransomware, new and more expansive variants will emerge amid the increasingly competitive, aggressive and “fast-moving” market for cybercrime weaponry. Mr Burszstein warns that ‘SamSam’ and ‘Spora’ are variants that seem to be gaining traction.

The research collected reports from victims of ransomware but also from an experiment wherein thousands of ‘synthetic’ virtual victims were created online. Mr Bursztein and his colleagues then monitored the network traffic generated by these fake victims to study the movement of money. More than 95% of Bitcoin payments (the preferred currency for ransom payments) were cashed out via Russia’s BTC-e exchange.

The lucrative nature of ransomware has led the Google researchers to conclude that it is “here to stay” and may well proliferate among the many syndicates and crime networks around the world. At a talk at the Black Hat conference, one of the world’s largest information security events, Mr Bursztein warned, “it’s no longer a game reserved for tech-savvy criminals, it’s for almost anyone.”

Facebook’s security boss argues that the industry should change its approach

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Hitting the data security balance: user issues vs. tech solutions 

At a talk at this year’s Black Hat, Facebook’s Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, has criticised the information security industry’s over-prioritisation of technology over people.

Advocating a ‘people-centric’ approach to information security, Mr Stamos stated his belief that most security professionals were too focused on complex ‘stunt’ hacks involving large corporations and state organisations, and tended to ignore problems that the majority of technology users face.

He told the attendees, “we have perfected the art of finding problems without fixing real-world issues. We focus too much on complexity, not harm.”

He explained that most Facebook users are not being targeted by spies or nation states, and that their loss of control over their information are from simple causes with simple solutions in which, he claims, the security industry takes no interest. He criticised the industry in general for lacking ‘empathy’ with less tech-savvy people, citing the often-expressed thought by security professionals that there would be fewer breaches and data losses if people were perfect.

He used the example of the widespread criticism from cyber experts that the security team for Facebook subsidiary Whatsapp faced after their decision to use ‘end-to-end’ encryption for the popular messaging app, which was heralded by some as sacrificing security for the sake of usability. Such a sacrifice did not manifest, but Mr Stamos was keen to emphasise the fact that it simply did not occur to security experts that usability was worth pursuing.

Mr Stamos advocated the diversification of the industry by working with less technically minded people who could empathise with the imperfections of tech-users, thus helping to develop more straightforward tools and services that would benefit a larger amount of people.

Facebook has also committed half a million dollars to fund a new project to secure election campaigns from cyber attack.  The initiative will be run by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a think-tank affiliated to Harvard University.  This is timely, given the scandals around the cyber- attack on French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent election campaign, and the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee during the US elections last year.

If you have any data privacy compliance, governance or security concerns which you’d like to discuss with Data Compliant, please email dc@datacompliant.co.uk.

Harry Smithson   20th July 2017

ICO updates Subject Access Requests (SARs) advice for data controllers following Court of Appeal decisions

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has updated its ‘Code of Practice on Subject Access Requests’ chiefly in response to several Court of Appeal decisions made earlier this year related to SARs. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individuals (‘data subjects’) may request access to their personal information held by a ‘data controller.’

These requests for information are called SARs, and can range from the request for specific or limited information to the request for the entirety of held information including why it is held and to whom it may have been disclosed. The scope of a data controller’s obligations, therefore, will vary from case to case, and will be particularly burdensome for large organisations. Currently, data controllers may charge a fee of up to £10 for processing a SAR, and must provide the requester the relevant information within 40 calendar days. When the GDPR comes into force next year, data controllers will normally not be entitled to charge a fee, irrespective of the inconvenience, and will be expected to provide the information within a shorter timeframe of 30 calendar days.

However, the ICO has revised its guidance in dealing with SARs to prepare controllers for data compliance in light of the Court of Appeal’s judgements on a string of cases in which SARs took place alongside ongoing or threatened litigation – cases which in the opinion of numerous legal commentators, therefore, highlight the potential for widespread abuse of SARs to redress grievances outside the purview of data protection law.

The three key changes to the ICO’s Code

  1. Scope for assessing ‘disproportionate effort’

The DPA includes an exemption from having to respond to SARs if this would involve ‘disproportionate effort’ for the data controller. Whereas the Code previously indicated that a refusal to provide information on the grounds of it being difficult is unacceptable, it now, with greater lenience, states: “there is scope for assessing whether, in the circumstances of a particular case, supplying a copy of the requested information in permanent form would result in so much work or expense as to outweigh the requester’s right of access to their personal data.” The ICO expects controllers to evaluate the benefits to the data subject as a result of the SAR against the difficulties in complying with the request, and assess whether the scope of the request is reasonable.

  1. Dialogue between controller and requester

The ICO now advises controllers to enter into dialogue with data subjects following a SAR. This may allow the requester to specify which information they require, thereby refining the request, and making the process more manageable and less likely to result in disproportionate effort. The Code continues to explain how it will take into account both controller’s and subject’s willingness to participate in this dialogue if they receive a complaint about the handling of a SAR.

  1. Information management systems and redaction of third-party data

 The ICO now expects controllers to have information management systems wherein personal information, including archived or back-up data, can be found expediently in anticipation of a SAR. Moreover, the information management system should allow for the redaction of third-party data. This is important, since certain SARs may be declined if the information requested would result some way in the disclosure of personal information about another living person.

Subject Access Requests: For more information have a look at the 4 Court of Appeal decisions that informed the ICO’s revised guidance:  Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing LLP, Ittihadieh v 5-11 Cheyne Gardens, Deer v Oxford University, Holyoake v Candy

Harry Smithson 7th July 2017

Weekly Roundup: Global Cyber-Attack, Google Scan Emails, Political Party Under Investigation, Nuisance Calls Fine

Malware outbreak in 64 countries, Google scrap email scans, and the Conservative Party face ‘serious allegations’

Global cyber-attack disrupts companies in 64 countries

Corrupted Ukrainian accountancy software ‘MEDoc’ is suspected to be the medium of a cyberattack on companies ranging from British ad agency WPP to Tasmanian Cadbury’s factory, with many European and American firms reporting disruption to services. Banks in Ukraine, Russian oil giant Rosneft, shipping giant Maersk, a Rotterdam port operator, Dutch global parcel service TNT and US law firm DLA Piper were among those suffering inabilities to process orders or else general computer shutdowns.

Heralded as “a recent dangerous trend” by Microsoft, this attack comes just 6 weeks after the WannaCry attack primarily affecting NHS hospitals. Both attacks appear to make use of a Windows vulnerability called ‘Eternal Blue,’ thought to have been discovered by the NSA and leaked online – although the NSA has not confirmed this. The NSA’s possible use of this vulnerability, which has served to create a model for cyber-attacks for political and criminal hackers, has been described by security experts as “a nightmare scenario.”

A BBC report suggests that given 80% of all instances of this malware were in Ukraine, and that the provided email address for the ‘ransom’ closed down quickly, the attack could be politically motivated at Ukraine or those who do business in Ukraine. Recent announcements suggest it could be related to data not money.

The malware appears to have been channelled through the automatic update system, according to security experts including the malware expert credited with ending the WannaCry attack, Marcus Hutchins. The MEDoc software would have originally begun this process legitimately, but at some point the update system released the malware into numerous companies’ computer systems.

 

Google to stop scanning Gmail accounts for personalised marketing data

In a blog published at the end of last week, the tech firm Google have confirmed that they will stop scanning Gmail users’ emails for the sake of accruing data to be used in personalised adverts, by the end of the year. This will put the consumer version of Gmail in line with the business edition.

Google had advertised their Gmail service by offering 1GB of ‘free’ webmail storage. However, it transpired that Google was paying for this offer by running these scans.

This recent change in tactic has been met with ‘qualified’ welcome by privacy campaigners. Executive director Dr Gus Hosein of Privacy International, the British charity who have been campaigning for regulators to intervene since they discovered the scans, stated:

When they first came up with the dangerous idea of monetising the content of our communications, Privacy International warned Google against setting the precedent of breaking the confidentiality of messages for the sake of additional income. […] Of course they can now take this decision after they have consolidated their position in the marketplace as the aggregator of nearly all the data on internet usage, aside from the other giant, Facebook.

Google faced a fairly substantial backlash on account of these scans when they were discovered, notably from Microsoft, with their series of critical ‘Gmail man’ adverts, depicting a man searching through people’s messages.

However, digital rights watchdog Big Brother Watch celebrated Google’s move, describing it as “absolutely a step in the right direction, let’s hope it encourages others to follow suit.”

UK Conservative Party under investigation for breaching data protection and election law

A Channel 4 News undercover investigation has provoked ‘serious allegations’ of data protection and election offences against the Conservative Party.

The investigation uncovered the party’s use of a market research firm based in Neath, South Wales, to make thousands of cold calls to voters in marginal seats ahead of the election this month. Call centre staff followed a ‘market research’ script, but under scrutiny this script appears to canvass for specific local Conservative candidates – in a severe breach of election law.

Despite the information commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s written warnings to all major parties before the election began, reminding them of data protection law and the illegality of such telecommunications, the Conservatives operated a fake market research company. This constitutes a breach separate to election law, and mandates the Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate.

The ICO’s statement on 23rd June reads,

The investigation has uncovered what appear to be underhand and potentially unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party. These allegations include:

  • Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – banned under election law.
  • Political cold calling to prohibited numbers
  • Misleading calls claiming to be from an ‘independent market research company’ which does not apparently exist

MyHome Installations Ltd fined £50,000 for nuisance calls

Facing somewhat less public scrutiny and condemnation than the Conservative Party, Maidstone domestic security firm MyHome Installations has been issued a £50,000 fine by the ICO for making nuisance calls.

The people who received these calls had explicitly opted out of telephone marketing by registering their numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the “UK’s official opt-out of telephone marketing.”

The ICO received 169 complaints from members of the public who’d received unwanted calls about electrical surveys and home security from MyHome Installations Ltd.

Harry Smithson 28 June 2017

Queen’s Speech Confirms New Bill to Replace Data Protection Act 1998

As part of several of measures aimed at “making our country safer and more united,” a new Data Protection Bill has been announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The Bill, which follows up proposals in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the election in June, is designed to make the UK’s data protection framework “suitable for our new digital age, allowing citizens to better control their data.”

The intentions behind the Bill are to:

  • Give people more rights over the use and storage of their personal information. Social media platforms will be required to delete data gathered about people prior to them turning 18. The ‘right to be forgotten’ is enshrined in the Bill’s requirement of organisations to delete an individual’s data on request or when there are “no longer legitimate grounds for retaining it.”
  • Implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and the new Directive which applies to law enforcement data processing. This meets the UK’s obligations to international law enforcement during its time as an EU member state and provides the UK with a system to share data internationally after Brexit is finalised.
  • To update the powers and sanctions available to the Information Commissioner.
  • Strengthen the UK’s competitive position in technological innovation and digital markets by providing a safe framework for data sharing and a robust personal data protection regime.
  • Ensure that police and judicial authorities can continue to exchange information “with international partners in the fight against terrorism and other serious crimes.”

Ultimately, the Bill seeks to modernise the UK’s data protection regime and to secure British citizens’ ability to control the processing and application of their personal information. The Queen’s Speech expressed the Government’s concern not only over law enforcement, but also the digital economy: over 70% of all trade in services are enabled by data flows, making data protection critical to international trade, and in 2015, the digital sector contributed £118 billion to the economy and employed over 1.4 million people across the UK.

Written by Harry Smithson, 22nd June 2017

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round-Up

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It’s the weekend before Christmas. Have you done all your Christmas shopping? If you’re shopping online, this is the last weekend you can really do your online shopping and still get everything delivered on time. 

Now you may be bored of hearing it but please be careful, look after your passwords, change them regularly, don’t have devices store your information! Lets start the year without a stranger stealing money from your credit cards and bank accounts!

Yahoo…Again 

This week brings us the news that Yahoo had announced a hack from 2013 – a separate breach to the 500,000 hacked records announced in September. 

Yahoo was investigating the 2014 breach when it uncovered the earlier hack – this time discovering that a billions accounts had been compromised. 

The reputational damage to Yahoo is enormous – a clear pattern of poor security is emerging and if I had an account with Yahoo, I’d be considering changing my provider immediately.  Having said that, though,  how can we be certain that other companies haven’t had similar breaches and we just don’t know about them yet?

The ICO’s deputy commissioner, Simon Entwisle has released a statement saying that they are talking to Yahoo and will try to find out how many UK users have been affected by the latest hack. Their immediate advice is to recommend  strongly that customers change their passwords if they haven’t already.

TalkTalk
An update on the huge TalkTalk hack has been released. One of the hackers, a 17 year old, has admitted to 7 offences relating to the hack and has been given a 12-month rehabilitation order and an £85 fine. He was 
told his excellent computer skills need to be used for the good. 19-year old Daniel Kelley also pleaded guilty. He has been told that a jail sentence is inevitable, and has been released on bail prior to sentencing in March.

Uber
Uber has come under fire after an ex-worker claimed that staff could track fares of celebrities, politicians and even ex-partners. If that’s true, it’s lucky for me I’ve only ever used it in Australia where no exes live and unfortunately I’m not yet a celeb!

Uber released a statement to the Standard stating that the claims made by Mr Spangenberg are “absolutely not true … we have hundreds of security and privacy experts working round the clock  to protect our data … all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.” Uber also makes it clear that access to personal data is limited to approved workers who may only access the data they need in order to perform their job function. 

Lionhead Studio just as bad as ‘Trolls”?
It has been released this week at a BAFTA event that a teenager targeted Sam van Tilburgh and his team, back in 2003, when they were creating the game Fable. The teen released a screen shot of the hero stabbing a child in the head – something no one was expecting to see. 

Rather than go through official routes, Tilburgh and team decided adopt an unconventional aporiach. They were able to track the boy’s IP address and let care the teenager. They then ‘acquired’ some of his school work from and published a part of it, with a demand that he stop or they would publish more and tell be his family what he was up to. He did indeed stop.

Tilburgh said Lionhead’s legal team knew nothing of the retaliating hack, and it has taken 13 years for the story to surface! I wonder if there’ll be repercussions.

The National Lottery hit with fine
So it wasn’t so long ago we heard that hackers had attacked The National Lottery (TNL). Today we hear TNL’s operator Camelot has been issued with a fine of £3m because of a fraudulent payout back in 2009. How this happened has not yet been announced but  it sounds as if a ‘deliberately damaged ticket’ was to blame. The prize fund payout is suspected to be around £2.5m but the actual figure has not yet been officially released.

I, for one will continue to buy my lottery tickets. Although The National Lottery has come under fire recently, it has fuelled a whopping £36 billion into good causes such as sports, community and heritage projects. Also imagine if you won.. (legitimately)

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 17th December 2016

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Something that is being spoken about more and more (due to the unfortunate higher frequency) is insider threat. It’s in the news an awful lot more than it ever used to be.

Do you remember the auditor of Morrisons who released a spreadsheet detailing just shy of 100,000 members of staff’s (very) personal details? He did end up getting jailed for 8 years but I heard a saying recently, it’s not a digital footprint you leave it’s more of a digital tattoo. Even two years after the incident Morrisons is still suffering the effects.

Now obviously that was what you would call a malicious breach. It does unfortunately happen, but there are ways for you to protect your company against this. Firstly we here at Data Compliant believe that if you have detailed joiner processes in place (i.e. thorough screening and references and criminal checks where appropriate), ongoing appraisals with staff and good leaver processes you can minimise your risk.

Other ways of insider breaches occurring, and much more likely in my opinion, are negligence, carelessness and genuine accidents. Did you know that over 50% of data breaches are cause by staff error? This may be because staff do not follow company procedures correctly and open up pathways for hackers. Or it could be that your staff are tricked into handing over information that they shouldn’t.

Your staff could be your company’s weakest point in relation to protecting it’s personal and confidential data. But you can take simple steps to minimise this risk by training your staff in data protection.

Online training has some big advantages for businesses, it’s a quick, efficient and relatively inexpensive way of training large numbers of employees while “taking them out of the business” for the least possible time.

The risk of breaches isn’t just your business’ reputation, or even a hefty fine from the ICO but as mentioned before, also a criminal conviction. Now that is a lot to risk.

If you’re interested in online training have a look at this video.

 

charlotte

Written by Charlotte Seymour, November 2016

 

Delays to the EU Data Protection Regulation …

iStock_000025602036SmallThere has been little progress on the draft EU Data Protection Regulation since October.  However, the Greek Government took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2014, so it is now up to them to progress this legislation.

It is clear that delays are inevitable. Even if the draft is agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers Council meeting in June, the process then continues with three-party negotiations between Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

That process is unlikely to start before the autumn, which would mean that the EU Regulation must be delayed until the end of this year or, more likely, until early 2015.  This will delay the law coming into force until the end of 2016 at the earliest, and more likely in 2017.

Three aspects of the new legislation that we have not covered in previous blogs are:

·         International Data Transfers:  this is a new certification programme which will allow data controllers and processers to apply for certification under The European Data Protection Seal. The certificate will be gained through an audit of data processing activity and certification granted by data protection authorities or accredited third parties.  The European Data Protection Seal will enable legitimate transfers of data outside the EEA to recipients who also hold a Seal.

·         Data Protection Officers:  though still in the draft stage, it is clear that firms will be encouraged or required to appoint data protection officers (DPOs) to ensure an organisation uses, controls and processes data compliantly, nationally and / or globally.  There are 500 million citizens within Europe, and currently, a DPO is to be appointed if an organisation processes data on more than 5,000 individuals per annum.

·         One Stop Shop continues to be a subject of fierce debate.  It is significantly different from current legislation where a business is always subject to the data protection authority in each and every country in which it operates.  Under the new One Stop Shop rule, a business which operates in several of the EU Member states would only be subject to the national data protection authority in the country where its Head Office is based.

The debate relates to citizens’ human rights – any data protection complaint made against a company whose head office location is in a different country, will mean that individuals must complain to their own national data protection authority, who will then pass it onto the authority in the relevant country.  This complexity will make it difficult for individuals to complain simply and effectively, and argument rages over whether and to what extent this might undermine human rights.

If you are concerned about how the new European legislation might affect you or your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Victoria or Michelle on 01787 277742.  Or emailvictoria@tuffillverner.co.uk  or michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk