The personal data of 500,000 people was compromised, risking passenger information including names, addresses and payment information. Following an extensive investigation the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is responsible for policing data breaches and information loss in the UK, issued a notice of its intention to fine British Airways £183.39m under the UK Data Protection Act.
The proposed fine relates to a cyber incident notified to the ICO by British Airways in September 2018. This incident in part involved user traffic to the British Airways website being diverted to a fraudulent site. Through this false site, customer details were harvested by the attackers. Personal data of approximately 500,000 customers were compromised in this incident, which is believed to have begun in June 2018.
The ICO’s investigation has found that a variety of information was compromised by poor security arrangements at the company, including log in, payment card, and travel booking details as well name and address information.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:
“People’s personal data is just that – personal. When an organisation fails to protect it from loss, damage or theft it is more than an inconvenience. That’s why the law is clear – when you are entrusted with personal data you must look after it. Those that don’t will face scrutiny from my office to check they have taken appropriate steps to protect fundamental privacy rights.”
With hackers accessing the BA website and mobile app, they had access to everything from personal information to card details and email addresses. Some passengers were taken to a fake website when booking which harvested their data. Compensation for such a loss could be in the thousands.
British Airways has cooperated with the ICO investigation and has made improvements to its security arrangements since these events came to light. The company will now have opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and sanction.
ICO has been investigating this case as lead supervisory authority on behalf of other EU Member State data protection authorities. It has also liaised with other regulators. Under the GDPR ‘one stop shop’ provisions the data protection authorities in the EU whose residents have been affected will also have the chance to comment on the ICO’s findings.
The ICO will consider carefully the representations made by the company and the other concerned data protection authorities before it takes its final decision.