HomeInsightsInformation Commissioner’s Office fines Bible Society £100,000 after security failings put supporters’ personal data at risk

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The British and Foreign Bible Society was fined after its computer network was compromised as the result of a cyber attack in 2016.

Between November and December 2016, the intruders exploited a weakness in the Society’s network to access the personal data of 417,000 of the Society’s supporters. For a subset of these supporters some payment card and bank account details were placed at risk.

The Society, which translates and distributes the Bible in the UK and around the world, relies on card donations from its UK supporters. Supporter details were kept on an insufficiently secured internal network, and in 2009 the Society created a service account on the same network. This account, which was configured in such a way as to provide inappropriate remote access rights to the network, was only secured with an easy-to-guess password.

The attackers deployed ransomware, and whilst the society’s data was not permanently damaged or rendered inaccessible by the encryption, the attackers were able to transfer some files out of the network.

The ICO found that, although the Society was the victim of a criminal act, it had failed to take appropriate technical and organisational steps to protect its supporters’ personal data. This was considered to be a serious contravention of Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which states that appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data.

While data protection law has now changed with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, the case still provides important lessons for organisations in terms of protecting the public’s personal information and their legal rights. To read the ICO press release in full, click here. To access the monetary penalty notice, click here.