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Carphone Warehouse fined £400,000 for “systemic failures”

Carphone Warehouse has been fined £400,000 after serious failings placed more than three million of its customers’ data at risk.

Amber Ainsley   Pritchard

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Amber Ainsley   Pritchard
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The fine, issued today (January 10) and one of the largest the ICO has ever issued, relates to one of Carphone Warehouse’s computer systems which was compromised after a cyber attack in 2015.


The ICO said the company’s failure to secure the system allowed unauthorised access to the personal data of more than three million customers and 1,000 employees.


The compromised customer data included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, marital status and, for more than 18,000 customers, historical payment card details.


The records for some Carphone Warehouse employees, including name, phone numbers, postcode, and car registration were also accessed.


Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “Carphone Warehouse should be at the top of its game when it comes to cyber security, and it is concerning that the systemic failures we found related to rudimentary, commonplace measures.”


The ICO considered that the personal data involved would significantly affect individuals’ privacy, leaving their data at risk of being misused.


Following a detailed investigation, the ICO identified multiple inadequacies in Carphone Warehouse’s approach to data security and determined that the company had failed to take adequate steps to protect the personal information.


The ICO said that using valid login credentials, intruders were able to access the system via out-of-date WordPress software.


It also found some elements of the company’s software, in use on the systems affected, were out of date and the company failed to carry out routine security testing. The ICO considered this to be a serious contravention of the Data Protection Act.


The commissioner added: “A company as large, well-resourced, and established as Carphone Warehouse, should have been actively assessing its data security systems, and ensuring systems were robust and not vulnerable to such attacks.”


However, Denham also acknowledges the steps Carphone Warehouse took to fix some of the problems and to protect those affected.


At the time of the attack in 2015, Carphone Warehouse set up additional security measures and contacted all customers who may have been at risk to inform them of the breach and to give them advice to reduce any risk and minimise inconvenience.


Denham also acknowledges that to date there has been no evidence that the data has resulted in identity theft or fraud.

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