Equifax fined £500,000 for ginormous 2017 breach

More than a year after hackers breached credit reporting agency Equifax to steal 146 million customer records, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued the company with a £500,000 fine – a small penalty for a such a monumental blunder.

You might wonder why the UK and not the US (where Equifax is based) has fined the agency. The answer comes in the third paragraph of the ICO’s press release, where it is mentioned that, “although the information systems in the US were compromised, Equifax Ltd was responsible for the personal information of its UK customers.”

It was still the US parent company that processed UK customer data, but the UK arm (Equifax Ltd.) failed to take appropriate steps to ensure Equifax Inc was protecting the information, hence the fine.

The investigation was carried out under the Data Protection Act (DPA) from 1998, which the GDPR replaced this year. However, since the breach occurred before GDPR went into effect, the fine was issued under the older legislation.

Under the DPA, Equifax reportedly contravened five out of eight data protection principles, including failure to secure personal data, poor retention practices, and lack of legal basis for international transfers of UK citizens’ data.

“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. “This is compounded when the company is a global firm whose business relies on personal data.”

“We are determined to look after UK citizens’ information wherever it is held. Equifax Ltd has received the highest fine possible under the 1998 legislation because of the number of victims, the type of data at risk and because it has no excuse for failing to adhere to its own policies and controls as well as the law,” added Denham.

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