Online retailer left customers’ financial details vulnerable to cyber attack

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Online retailer left customers’ financial details vulnerable to cyber attack

An online building products supplier has been fined £55,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after the firm failed to protect its customers’ personal information.

Construction Materials Online Ltd (CMO) was unaware its website contained a coding error which left it vulnerable to attack. On 6 May 2014 an attacker used a common hacking technique called an SQL injection to access 669 unencrypted cardholder details including names, addresses, account numbers and security codes.

An investigation by the ICO discovered the Plymouth-based firm did not have the appropriate technical measures in place to prevent the attack. This is a breach of the Data Protection Act.

Head of Enforcement at the ICO, Steve Eckersley said:

“When people handed over their personal financial information, they rightly expected it to be safe. Construction Materials Online did not keep it safe and, as a result, exposed its customers to potential fraud.

“Its failure to make cyber security a top priority has proved a costly mistake.”

The ICO found that CMO failed to carry out regular penetration testing on its website that should have detected the vulnerability. It also failed to ensure that its own system passwords were sufficiently complex to resist a brute-force attack.

But the investigation also revealed that CMO’s failure to keep customers’ personal data safe was an oversight rather than an intentional attempt to bypass the law.

Mr Eckersley said:

“It’s not just large, household-name companies that have to consider cyber security. Cyber security must be a top priority for businesses regardless of size.

“This fine must serve as a warning to other small and medium-sized firms that the security of their customers’ personal information must come first.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office has online tools to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) comply with the law.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  5. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
    • fairly and lawfully processed;
    • processed for limited purposes;
    • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
    • accurate and up to date;
    • not kept for longer than is necessary;
    • processed in line with your rights;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to

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