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Company fined £150,000 for data protection breach

A £150,000 penalty imposed on an online travel services company has highlighted the potentially serious consequences of a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner imposed the penalty on London-based Think W3 Limited after a serious breach of the Data Protection Act revealed thousands of people’s details to a malicious hacker.

The company was hacked in December 2012 after using insecure coding on the website of a subsidiary business, Essential Travel Ltd. The hacker extracted a total of 1,163,996 credit and debit card records. Of these records, 430,599 were identified as current and 733,397 as expired.

Cardholder details had not been deleted since 2006 and there had been no security checks or reviews since the system had been installed.

Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said on 24 July: “This was a staggering lapse that left more than a million holiday makers’ personal details exposed to a malicious hacker.

“Data security should be a top priority for any business that operates online. Think W3 Limited accepted liability for failing to keep their customers’ personal data secure; failing to test their security and failing to delete out-of-date information.

“The public’s awareness of the importance of data protection is rising all the time. Ignorance from data controllers is no excuse. They must take active steps to ensure the personal data they are responsible for is kept safe or face enforcement action and the resulting reputational damage.”