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Dixons Carphone Suffers Major Data Breach

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Why does this sound familiar?


Update: It was much, much worse than it seemed at first. New reports suggest that around 10 million accounts were affected, not 1.2 million. 

 

Hackers have attempted to compromise almost six millions credit and debit cards, having gained access to systems belonging to Dixons Carphone. The data breach was revealed today by Dixons Carphone itself, in a statement that said, “As part of a review of our systems and data, we have determined that there has been unauthorised access to certain data held by the company.”

Fortunately, the vast majority of these were protected by chip and PIN, and no critical data, like PIN numbers or CVVs (card verification values) were leaked. However, “Approximately 105,000 non-EU issued payment cards which do not have chip and pin protection have been compromised.”

So far, Dixons says there has been no evidence of fraud as a result of the breach, and the relevant card companies have been notified, so hopefully, this will be where this case ends. Not that that would make it okay, of course. And it wouldn’t excuse Dixons for the separate breach, also mentioned in its statement, in which “1.2m records containing non-financial personal data, such as name, address or email address, have been accessed.” Again, Dixons Carphone says no fraud has occurred as a result of the breach.

Who? What? Why? Huh?

Notably missing from its statement are any details about how and, crucially, when these breaches occurred. As well as requiring data controllers and processors to have adequate cyber security, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) states that significant data breaches like this should be reported within 72 hours, or else fines from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) may follow.

As has been shown on numerous occasions, many companies will do their best to keep data breaches under wraps. Like when Uber had the details of 57 millions customers stolen, and then chose to hide that fact for more than a year. Or that time, in 2014, when Yahoo lost the data of 500 million of its customers to hackers, but only owned up to it in 2016.

Ah, good times…

There is, however, nothing to suggest that Dixon Carphone has been sitting on this information. Indeed, Carphone Warehouse – part of the same group, of course – suffered a similar attack in 2015, in which the data of millions of customers and thousands of staff was pilfered, and by the very next week it had both reported the incident and gone public with it. That didn’t stop it being fined a tidy £400,000, but it’s still better than trying to sweep it under the rug and then acting surprised when the ICO inspectors trip over the bump.

Chip and PIN card - Dixons Carphone
Thankfully, most of the data accessed by Dixon’s hackers was protected by chip and PIN.

At this early stage, it’s not known how the criminals gained access to Dixon’s systems, but in the 2015 case, the out-of-date WordPress builds on which Carphone Warehouse’s websites were based were found to be the cause. As the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said at the time, “A company as large, well-resourced and established as Carphone Warehouse should have been actively assessing its data security systems, and ensuring systems were robust and not vulnerable to such attacks.”

Well, quite.

So what should Carphone Warehouse have actually done? It should have kept its websites up to date, of course, checking on their status on a regular basis. And if that was beyond the abilities or time of its staff, it could have easily tried a managed service provider (MSP). Under an MSP model, its systems would have been constantly monitored, and things like out-of-date content management systems would have been flagged before they led to problems.

Could an MSP have saved Dixons Carphone? Maybe, maybe not. It’s impossible to say at this point. But what’s clear is that reactive approaches to IT and cyber security, while important, can by their very nature only be deployed once the damage is done.

In an age when the sanctity of personal data is paramount, that simply may not be good enough any more.


If you’re concerned about the state of your own IT or cyber security, please give us a call on 0333 900 9050 or email info@tmb.co.uk. We’d be happy to discuss your requirements with you and find a solution that suits your business and your budget.

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Why do we hold personal data?

Like any business, TMB Group has to keep personal data about staff, clients and potential customers. When you fill in the contact form on our website, for example, we need to keep a record so we can get back to you. Data is also held so we can deliver our services and so we can provide useful information, such as security update news.

What data do we keep?
Depending on our relationship with you, we’ll hold information such as your first and last names, your email address, your phone number and your postal address. We will also possibly have details about your business and those who work for you. If you’re a customer, then we may have some of your banking detail so we’re able to accept payments for the services we provide.

How is your data stored?

As a responsible IT company, TMB stores personal data on secured computer systems. Anything that is archived will be placed on encrypted drives.

We do use third-party customer management software, Autotask, which means data may be stored on their servers, but only the data we need to deliver our services. The same goes for the Microsoft services we use, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which store information on Microsoft’s cloud servers. We also use Mailchimp for marketing purposes: to send emails and to manage subscriber lists.

These third parties are not permitted to share your data or to use it for marketing purposes. You can find Autotask’s privacy policy here: https://www.autotask.com/privacy-policy. Microsoft’s privacy policy for Office 365 is here: https://www.microsoft.com/online/legal/v2/?docid=43. Mailchimp’s policy is here: https://mailchimp.com/legal/privacy.

How long do we keep your data?

We will keep your data in our systems until it is no longer relevant to our business, but you can request that we remove or update it at any time. We will also inform any relevant third parties of your request.

Access to your information

The key thing to remember is that your data belongs to you. That means you can request copies of your personal data any time you like, or to access and update it. You also have the right to be forgotten, so if you ask that we delete your data, we will do so or provide a valid reason why we are unable to. We will, of course, require proof of your identity before addressing any such request.

Depending on your request, your information may be provided to you electronically. In such cases, it will be provided in a commonly used format.

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Unsubscribing is not the same as a request for us to delete personal data. If, for example, you unsubscribe from a mailing list, it is necessary to keep your email address on record to prevent marketing email from being sent to you. If we were to delete that information, we would have no way to tell if you have unsubscribed. Nevertheless, you still have the right to request erasure of your personal data.

Your right to complain

If, for any reason, you are unhappy with the way your personal data is treated by us, you have the right to complain to a supervisory authority. In the UK, that would be the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Website analytics

Anyone who visits our website will automatically have data about them collected via Google Analytics. This gives us broad information about what people are doing on our website and which pages they are looking at. It does not provide us with personal information that could be used to identify individuals.

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Cookies are small text files that web browsers receive from websites. They are stored on your computer, and they enable sites to do things like remember if you’ve visited before, if you’re a customer, what your preferences are and so on. You are entitled to view our website without them, but you may lose this kind of functionality if you do so.

International data transfers

Information that we collect may be stored and processed in and transferred between any of the countries in which we operate in order to enable us to use the information in accordance with this privacy policy.

Data controllers and processors

TMB is the controller for marketing activity and personal data/special category data we hold on our own employees, but we are the processor when processing our customers’ personal data (e.g. buying a licence for a named individual).  We  may use sub-processors for processing data given to us by customers.

What we won’t ever do is sell your data. And if you sign up to our mailing list, you’ll only receive marketing material from TMB as a result – no one else.

For any questions regarding your data, contact TMB’s technical director, Richard Shuker, at info@tmb.co.uk or write to us at A1 Endeavour Business Park, Penner Road, Havant, Hampshire, PO9 1QN..