Equifax hit by £500000 fine over data breach

ICO slaps Equifax with maximum £500,000 fine for 2017 mega-breach

The timing of the breach and the ICO investigation, however, have saved the company a significantly larger penalty: The investigation was carried out under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, which allows for a maximum £500,000 fine regardless of the size of the company involved; since May this year, the Europe-wide General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) increase the maximum possible penalty to the greater of £17.8 million or four percent of the company's turnover.

The investigation unveiled that nearly 20,000 United Kingdom data subjects had names, dates of birth, telephone numbers and driving licence numbers exposed, more than 600,000 had names, dates of birth and telephone numbers exposed, and up to 15 million have had names and birthdates exposed.

Ofri Ben-Porat, CEO and co-founder, Pixoneye, commented: "This is a prime example of the limitations and the lack of power the ICO had before GDPR when it comes to deterring companies from adopting inadequate security policies".

The fine was deemed to be "reasonable and proportionate" under the Data Protection Act, according to the circumstances detailed in a 32-page statement accompanying the decision.

"It's no secret that maintaining complete control over business data is a significant challenge, but with customers' personal data at stake, the security of that personal data should be a company's number one concern".

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has imposed the fine following an investigation into the breach.

The breach itself affected almost 146m customers around the world, mainly in the USA, and involved highly sensitive data including Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, tax IDs and much more. The US Department of Homeland Security, moreover, had warned its parent firm about a critical vulnerability as far back as March 2017.

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The ICO's probe, carried out in parallel with the Financial Conduct Authority, revealed multiple failures at the credit reference agency which led to personal information being retained for longer than necessary and vulnerable to unauthorised access.

Equifax received the ICO's Monetary Penalty Notice on Wednesday, and are considering the points made in the document, a spokesperson confirmed.

'Many of the people affected would not have been aware the company held their data; learning about the cyber attack would have been unexpected and is likely to have caused particular distress, ' Commissioner Denham continues. "We apologise again to any consumers who were put at risk".

"Multinational data companies like Equifax must understand what personal data they hold and take robust steps to protect it". Data security and combatting criminal digital activity is an ongoing battle for all organisations that requires continued innovation and attention.

According to the ICO, Equifax UK's parent company in the United States - the one infiltrated by cyberattackers - processed data on its behalf. "They will always be our priority". Their boards need to ensure that internal controls and systems work effectively to meet legal requirements and customers' expectations.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said Equifax showed a "series disregard" for its customers and their personal information.

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