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UK ISP TalkTalk Hit by £100,000 Fine for 2014 Personal Data Breach

Thursday, August 10th, 2017 (1:44 pm) - Score 565
TalkTalk Logo 2017

Once again the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has today whacked broadband ISP TalkTalk with a £100,000 fine, which comes after several accounts at their outsourced Wipro call centre in India were used to access the personal data of 21,000 customers.

A report published earlier this year revealed details of a significant scam that operated from call centres in two Indian cities and allegedly involved “hundreds of staff“, many of which had been “hired to scam customers” of TalkTalk (here). Apparently the dodgy call centres purchased data that had been stolen by three Wipro employees (accounts), which is an issue that the ISP has been investigating since September 2014 (here).

However the fallout from that episode has now resulted in the ICO hitting TalkTalk with yet another fine of £100,000. This follows last year’s penalty of £400,000, which was due to the “security failings” that occurred during October 2015’s devastating cyber-attack (here), and not forgetting a smaller fine of £1,000 that followed a separate breach of personal data (here).

In this latest example the ICO found that TalkTalk had breached the Data Protection Act by allowing staff, via a portal, to have access to large quantities of customers’ data (i.e. 40 Wipro employees had access to the data of between 25,000 and 50,000 TalkTalk customers). As a result the “lack of adequate security measures left the data open to exploitation by rogue employees” and it was promptly abused.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said:

“TalkTalk may consider themselves to be the victims here. But the real victims are the 21,000 people whose information was open to abuse by the malicious actions of a small number of people.

TalkTalk should have known better and they should have put their customers first.”

The ICO said that TalkTalk “should have been aware of the risks and that the misuse of personal data was likely to cause substantial damage or distress.” On top of that they said the ISP “had ample opportunity over a long period of time to implement appropriate measures, but it failed to do so.”

The investigation states that TalkTalk should have made sure the portal could only be accessed from authorised devices and they could have taken steps to prevent large-scale accessing or exporting of personal data through the portal.

A TalkTalk Spokeswoman said:

“We notified the ICO in 2014 of our suspicions that a small number of employees at one of our third party suppliers were abusing their access to non-financial customer data. We informed our customers at the time and launched a thorough investigation, which has led to us withdrawing all customer service operations from India.

We continue to take our customers’ data and privacy incredibly seriously, and while there is no evidence that any of the data was passed on to third parties, we apologise to those affected by this incident.”

However the ICO rather oddly notes that their investigation “did not find direct evidence of a link between the compromised information and the complaints about scam calls,” even though the breach is widely believed to have resulted in precisely that sort of activity. Perhaps this aspect is more a matter for the police in India than the ICO.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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2 Responses
  1. captain.cretin

    It’s not enough, they should be hit hard enough to understand that investment, not share dividends, is required; and that everyone is getting sick of their feeble excuses.

  2. Pedant

    £100,000 is probably an hour’s income for them – or even less. Doesn’t hurt them at all.

    Now, if it were £10m or £100m, they’d properly take this stuff seriously.

    What does the ICO think it’s playing at??!

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