The British regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined credit reference company Equifax Inc’s UK arm, Equifax Ltd with a £500,000 for failing to protect the personal information of up to 15 million UK citizens during a cyber attack in 2017.
The incident, which happened between May 13 and July 30, 2017, in the US, affected 146 million customers globally.
The ICO investigation found that, although the information systems in the US were compromised, Equifax Ltd was responsible for the personal information of its UK customers.
The UK arm of the company failed to take appropriate steps to ensure its American parent Equifax Inc, which was processing the data on its behalf, was protecting the information.
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.
“The loss of personal information, particularly where there is the potential for financial fraud, is not only upsetting to customers, it undermines consumer trust in digital commerce…,” said Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner.
The ICO found that measures that should have been in place to manage the personal information were inadequate and ineffective. Investigators found significant problems with data retention, IT system patching, and audit procedures.
“Our investigation also found that the US Department of Homeland Security had warned Equifax Inc about a critical vulnerability as far back as March 2017. Sufficient steps to address the vulnerability were not taken meaning a consumer-facing portal was not appropriately patched,” ICO said in a statement.
The personal information lost or compromised during the incident ranged from names and dates of birth to addresses, passwords, driving licence and financial details.