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Can you claim compensation for the Police Federation data breach?

Last month, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) admitted that it suffered a severe data breach across a number of its databases. This data privacy violation happened as a result of a ransomware cyber-attack. A criminal investigation has now been launched into the Police Federation cyber-attack.

What happened in the Police Federation data breach?

In a Twitter statement, posted on 21st March, the PFEW said: “We can confirm we have been subject to a malware attack on our computer systems. We were alerted by our own security systems on Saturday 9 March. Cyber experts rapidly reacted to isolate the malware and prevent it from spreading.”

The statement also included a press release with more information about the attack. You can read this in full here.

However, people were soon pointing out that the PFEW took 12 days to inform its members about the attack. And the way some members found out was also questioned.

 

“So this happened on 9th March and it is only now the 21st March that you tell your paying members?? Absolutely disgraceful handling by the federation.”

@RonanDonohue1

“I’d rather my OH not be told via a press release, but direct contact from federation! Press releases are for the public not the potential victims”.

@lucycdoyle

“So if the attack was discovered on 9th March, why did it take 12 days to alert everyone? I assume you have reported your data breach to the information commissions office?”

@ RPUSC2

“Members are always last to find out. Why has it taken over 11 days to inform your members…”

@CopsAgainstXtr

 

What information was exposed in the PFEW data breach?

The names, email addresses, National Insurance numbers, ranks and serving forces of around 120,000 police officers may have been exposed. The breach affects officers at all levels up to the rank of chief inspector.

Also, any guests who stayed at the PFEW conference and hotel facilities in Leatherhead between 1 September 2018 and 9 March 2019 may also have had their financial details (credit card number and expiry date) put at risk.

In addition, the PFEW claims case management system has also been compromised. So any members who requested PFEW assistance for any investigation, inquiry or complaint could have had their name, address, National Insurance number, and bank details accessed.

However, the PFEW claims that there is no evidence at this stage that any data was extracted from PFEW’s systems, although this cannot be discounted.

Local Federation branches have not been affected.

How is the PFEW ransomware attack impacting police systems?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software. Typically cybercriminals use ransomware to threaten to publish the victim’s data, or to block access to it unless a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks are becoming more widespread.

As a result of this ransomware attack, the PFEW has suffered severe disruption to services. Backup data was also deleted. Indeed, following the breach the PFEW has made the “difficult decision” to cancel its national conference in June. A statement on Twitter read:

“Experts in business recovery estimate it takes 4 – 6 months to recover from a cyber-attack and with annual conference due in 9 weeks it would not be possible to deliver this on time.”

Can you claim compensation for the Police Federation data breach?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is aware of the situation. However, while it has the power to impose hefty fines on organisations who fail to meet their data protection requirements, the ICO does not award compensation.

But, should the ICO find that the PFEW did not meet its data protection requirements, you could have a claim for compensation.

Indeed, even if there is no immediate evidence that personal and sensitive data was successfully extracted from PFEW systems, that doesn’t mean that there will be no impact on those officers affected. In many data breach cases it can take months for the full implications and losses to become apparent. We have seen instances where the financial losses only start to occur three to six months later. This is often because data stolen is used in batches over time.

What’s more, simply knowing that your details could be in the hands of cybercriminals can lead to anxiety and distress. Experiencing a data breach can result in adverse life events such as having to move house or area, losing a job, relationship stress and separation, and dislocation from friends and family. All of which can lead to a diagnosable psychological injury. For police officers knowing that their personal information could be in the hands of criminals is bound to be even more distressing.

How to make a claim following the Police Federation data breach

At Hayes Connor Solicitors, we are experts in data breach cases. Committed to helping victims of data breaches and cybercrime to achieve the justice they deserve, we are now considering launching a no-win, no-fee group action to compensate victims of the Police Federation cyberattack.

Find out more about group actions.

 

By now those who have been affected should have been emailed. If you have received this email then you may be able to claim compensation once the matter has been investigated.

To ensure that you are fully informed and kept up-to-date, simply fill in our quick form and we will notify you about the investigation and your legal rights when making a claim.

REGISTER HERE

 

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How to protect yourself following the PFEW data breach

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has admitted to a severe data breach across a number of its databases. As a result, the personal information of some 120k police offices has been held to ransom. The data breach affects officers at all levels up to the rank of chief inspector.

If you have been affected by the PFEW data breach, you should have received an email to let you know. And, if you are worried about how this could impact you, here are some tips to help you stay safe.

  1. Understand the risk

To stay safe from cybercriminals you need to be digitally aware. Here is a quick summary to let you know what happened in this case:

  • The attack is thought to have impacted a number of PFEW databases. These include:
    • A database that holds the names, email addresses, NI numbers, ranks and serving forces of around 120,000 police officers
    • A booking system for the PFEW conference and hotel facilities in Leatherhead. Any guests who stayed at the facilities between 1 September 2018 and 9 March 2019 may have had their personal and financial details put at risk
    • The PFEW claims case management system. Members who requested PFEW assistance for an investigation, inquiry or complaint could have had their name, address, National Insurance number, and bank details accessed
  • A ransomware attack caused the breach. Ransomware is a type of malicious software. Typically cybercriminals use ransomware to threaten to publish data, or to block access to it unless a ransom is paid
  • There is no evidence that any data was extracted from PFEW’s systems, although this cannot be discounted at this stage
  • Local Federation branches have not been affected.
  1. Follow the advice given by the PFEW

The Federation has said that any officers concerned about fraud or lost data should contact Action Fraud. Advice can also be obtained from the National Cyber Security Centre.

A PFEW helpline is also available on 0800 358 0714. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 3pm.

The PFEW website has the latest information and FAQs regarding this breach.

  1. Take steps to protect yourself

Those affected by the PFEW data breach should consider the following steps:

  • Inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your concerns
  • If you are concerned that your financial details have been compromised contact your bank/credit card provider immediately
  • You may also want to consider a credit freeze until you are confident that your details are safe
  • Report the scam to the police and contact Action Fraud for advice on what to do next
  • Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements to see if there is anything you don’t recognise
  • Look out for any bills or emails showing goods or services you haven’t ordered
  • Let the credit reference agencies know of any activity that was not down to you
  • Register with the Cifas protective registration service. This will slow down credit applications made in your name with additional verification checks made to ascertain that the applicant is actually you
  • Beware of fraudsters who attempt to gather additional personal information (phishing)
  • Change your passwords on all your accounts.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

  1. Understand the possible impact the data breach could have on you

Unfortunately, while the Federation claims that the risk to data is low, in many data breach cases it can take months for the full impact and losses to become apparent.

We have seen instances where the financial losses only start to occur three to six months later. This is often because data stolen is used in batches over time.

What’s more, simply knowing that your details could be in the hands of cybercriminals can lead to anxiety and distress. Experiencing a data breach can result in adverse life events such as having to move house or area, losing a job, relationship stress and separation, and dislocation from friends and family. All of which can lead to a diagnosable psychological injury. For police officers knowing that their personal information could be in the hands of criminals is bound to be even more distressing.

So, as well as taking steps to keep your information and finances safe from further attack, it’s also worth keeping an eye on your state of mind and seeking help if you are distressed or worried about the data privacy violation.

  1. Claim for compensation

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you have a right to claim compensation.

In most cases, data breaches happen because of a failure to implement reasonable and robust processes. So claiming compensation isn’t just in your best interests, it is often the only way organisations will be persuaded to take their responsibilities seriously and make the necessary improvements.

Committed to helping victims of data breaches and cybercrime to achieve the justice they deserve, we are now considering launching a no-win, no-fee group action to compensate victims of the PFEW data breach and cyberattack.

To ensure that you are fully informed and kept up-to-date about this action, simply fill in our quick form and we will notify you about the investigation and your legal rights when making a claim.

REGISTER HERE

 

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What do you need to know about the Bounty pregnancy club personal data breach?

In what is being called an “unprecedented” data breach case, the Bounty pregnancy club has been fined £400,000 after it illegally shared the personal information of more than 14 million people.

What happened in the Bounty pregnancy club data breach case?

Bounty is a pregnancy and parenting support club. It provides free samples, vouchers and guides to new parents and expectant mothers. These parents can sign up through its website and mobile app, and are even directly recruited on maternity wards.

In a shocking breach of trust, between June 2017 and April 2018 the Bounty pregnancy club shared approximately 34.4m records with 39 organisations – without its users’ permission.

The data shared was sensitive and included information about potentially vulnerable new mothers, mothers-to-be, and very young children.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), this data sharing appears to “have been motivated by financial gain”.

Commenting on the data breach, the ICO’s director of investigations said: “Such careless data sharing is likely to have caused distress to many people, since they did not know that their personal information was being shared multiple times with so many organisations, including information about their pregnancy status and their children.

“The number of personal records and people affected in this case is unprecedented in the history of the ICO’s investigations into data broking industry and organisations linked to this.”

While Bounty’s managing director has admitted fault, and ended the company’s relationships with data brokerage companies, he has not apologised for Bounty’s actions.

Has the Bounty pregnancy club been fined?

Yes. But not as much as you might think. In fact, while the fine is still among the highest ever issued, the breach happened under the UK’s old data protection laws and before the introduction of the European general data protection regulation (GDPR). This caps the potential fine at £500,000. Under the new data protection regime, the maximum fine for a company of Bounty’s size is now €20m (£17m).

What’s more, while the ICO has the power to impose fines for data breaches, it doesn’t award compensation to victims. However, many of these victims could go on to suffer distress at finding out their data has been manipulated in this way; especially as it includes information about young children.

Claim for compensation for the Bounty pregnancy club data breach

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you have a right to claim compensation. And crucially, you can make a compensation claim if you have struggled emotionally following a data breach, even if you have not experienced any financial loss.

Some people would have us believe that claiming for distress is an overreaction. That your physiological suffering and anguish doesn’t matter. You might hear friends and family saying that, while it is acceptable to claim compensation for any financial losses, you should put up with any anxiety caused by having your information sold in this manner.

But being the victim of a data breach can have a substantial impact on you mentally and physically. For some people, the effects can include a lack of sleep, feeling ill, unsettled or confused. So why shouldn’t you seek compensation for a failure to look after your information correctly? Especially when it included data about young children.

If you are worried that your trust has been exploited and the Bounty pregnancy club has breached your data, contact us to find out how we can help.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Police gangs database breached data protection laws

A Metropolitan Police database of suspected gang members has seriously breached data protection laws. That’s the findings of an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

What is the Gangs Matrix?

The Gangs Matrix was set up following the 2011 London riots. It contains the names and personal details of thousands of people. According to the Met, these individuals either pose a risk of committing gang violence, or of becoming victims.

In total, the matrix holds details of around 3,500 people, some of who are as young as 12. It stores their full name, date of birth, home address, and information on whether someone is a firearms offender or a knife carrier. Also, each individual is allocated a green, amber or red rating indicating their apparent risk of violence.

There are a significant number of children and vulnerable individuals on the list.

What was the problem with the Gangs Matrix?

Concerns were raised that the matrix violated human rights. Not least because young black men and boys made up more than three-quarters of the list.  What’s more, the Guardian newspaper found that in one London borough, 40% of young people on the list had “zero” risk of causing harm.

In response, the ICO undertook a review of the database.

What did the ICO find?

While the ICO acknowledged the severity of gang crime, its investigation into the police database found that a failure to adhere to data protection principles potentially caused “damage and distress” to the disproportionate number of black men on it.

According to the ICO, some boroughs also operated informal lists of people who no longer met the criteria for being on the matrix. This meant that the police continued to monitor people that intelligence indicated were not gang members.

Also, data on the list was inappropriately shared with other public bodies such as local councils, housing associations, and education authorities. And there was no guidance on how this data should be used. As a result, people faced sanctions relating to housing, jobs and other public services. The Information Commissioner said that: “simply being on this database could lead to denial of services and other adverse consequences”.

The investigation also found that the matrix failed to distinguish between victims of crime and offenders, leading to confusion among officers.

Amnesty International welcomed the report stating that: “The investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office confirms a lot of our own findings into the gangs matrix: namely, that it is currently not fit for purpose”.

What was the outcome of the investigation?

The Metropolitan Police force was ordered to radically reform the matrix.

The ICO’s recommendations included:

  • Conducting an impact assessment on the Gangs Matrix
  • Ensuring people are clearly identified to distinguish between victims of crime and suspects
  • Improving guidance to explain what constitutes a gang member
  • Removing people from the matrix where necessary
  • Erasing any informal lists of people
  • Conducting a full review to establish how information on the list is being shared and used
  • Developing guidance setting out how information on the list can be used
  • Training officers and staff who have access to and use the database
  • Putting more robust data security systems and access restrictions in place.

The Met said it accepted the findings and was working to address them. The ICO also launched a separate investigation into how police information was being used by other public bodies, such as local councils.

However, concerns have now been raised about Concern Hub – a new criminal database similar to the Gangs Matrix. Not least because information gathered by Concern Hub will be shared with other agencies.

A spokesperson for Amnesty International said: “Any police database being developed must comply with human rights standards and conform to data protection laws and needs to be far more than a rebrand of the deeply problematic Gangs Matrix”.

What can you do if you have suffered because of the Gangs Matrix?

It is the job of the police to protect us, and in a digital society that also means protecting our data. However, where this trust is being undermined, it is vital to hold them to account.

According to the ICO, problems with the Gangs Matrix go back to 2011 and created a plausible risk to this data.

There is also real concern about the impact on its mainly black and ethnic minority data subjects (people on the database). And, while the investigation focused on London, this issue could be more widespread.

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by the Gangs Matrix you have a right to claim compensation. To find out how we can help you recover any losses, give us a call on 0151 363 5895 to discuss your case in more depth.

Find out more about how we are helping to reduce the impact of police data breach violations. Or, for more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Government admits Windrush data breach

In a serious breach of data protection laws, the Home Office has admitted that an administrative error has exposed the email addresses of hundreds of Windrush migrants. These recipients had all signed up to be kept informed about the Windrush compensation scheme which was launched last week.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has apologised for the Windrush data breach data breach, and the matter has been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Windrush generation compensation scheme

Today, an estimated 500,000 people are living in the UK who arrived between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. Many were given indefinite leave to remain. These workers have been called the Windrush generation in reference to a ship which brought people to the UK.

However, despite living and working in the UK for decades, many children of these citizens were subsequently told to leave because of a lack of official paperwork. Many travelled on their parents’ passports.

And, without documentation, changes to immigration law in 2012 resulted in many people being held in detention or made to leave the UK.

Following a backlash, the government has since apologised for the “appalling” way these people have been treated. And, a scheme was launched to help those who experienced a loss because they could not demonstrate their lawful right to live in the UK.

The government is expected to pay up to £200m in compensation to people who suffered after being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants. According to the home secretary, there is no cap on the fund.

Windrush data breach

In a written statement, the Immigration Minister said: “Regrettably, in promoting the scheme via email to interested parties, an administrative error was made, which has meant data protection requirements have not been met, for which the Home Office apologises unreservedly.

“This occurred in emails sent to some of the individuals and organisations who had registered an interest in being kept informed about the launch of the compensation scheme, which included other recipients’ email addresses. Five batches of emails, each with 100 recipients, were affected. No other personal data was included.

“A recall was commenced as soon as the problem had been identified. The departmental data protection officer has been informed and an internal review will be conducted to ensure this cannot happen again. The department has voluntarily notified the Information Commissioner’s Office of the incident. I am firmly committed to doing right by the Windrush generation.”

What can you do if you have suffered because of the Windrush data breach?

Experiencing a data breach can result in significant stress and anxiety, which can lead to a diagnosable psychological injury.

For people who have already been wrongly branded as “illegal immigrants” knowing that their personal information has been violated could be particularly distressing.

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by the Windrush data breach you have a right to claim compensation. To find out how we can help you recover any losses, contact us to discuss your case in more depth.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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TeamSport Indoor Karting data breach reveals personal & financial information of former employees

Indoor go-karting company TeamSport, which operates racing circuits across the UK, has suffered a significant data breach. As with the majority of cases, it looks like this privacy violation was caused by human error and/or poor processes rather than cybercrime.

In a letter to former employees, the company states that a file was released in error on Friday 22nd March. This file contained personal information relating to their previous employment with TeamSport. It is not yet clear if current employees have also been affected.

The information violated in this privacy breach includes names, titles, National Insurance numbers, employment dates, student loan deductions, tax codes, earnings and tax information. As such this looks to be a very significant incident which could have a severe impact on those affected.

What has TeamSport said about the data breach?

TeamSport has apologised for the data breach and accepted that it did not keep the data as safe as it would have expected.

An investigation is now taking place to establish how this incident occurred. The ICO has also been notified about the breach (as is required by law).

While TeamSport says that the error was spotted promptly, and that the recipient of the file deleted the information and did not disclose it to another party, we have already received a number of enquiries from people who are worried about what could happen now that their personal and financial information has been exposed.

Indeed, while TeamSport says that it considers the risk involved to those affected by the data breach to be negligible, this may not be the case.

In many data breach cases it can take months for the full implications and losses to become apparent. We have seen instances where the financial losses only start to occur three to six months later. What’s more, simply knowing that your details have been exposed can lead to anxiety and distress.

How to protect yourself following the TeamSport Indoor Karting data breach

At Hayes Connor Solicitors, we are experts in data breach cases and would advise those affected by the TeamSport data breach to consider the following steps:

  • Inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your concerns
  • If you are concerned that your financial details have been compromised contact your bank/credit card provider immediately
  • Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements to see if there is anything you don’t recognise
  • Look out for any bills or emails showing goods or services you haven’t ordered
  • Let the credit reference agencies know of any activity that was not down to you
  • Register with the Cifas protective registration service. This will slow down credit applications made in your name with additional verification checks made to ascertain that the applicant is actually you
  • Beware of fraudsters who attempt to gather additional personal information (phishing)
  • Change your passwords on all your accounts.

 

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Claiming compensation for the TeamSport Indoor Karting data breach

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you have a right to claim compensation.

In most cases, data breaches happen because of a failure to implement reasonable and robust processes. So claiming compensation isn’t just in your best interests, it is often the only way organisations will be persuaded to take their responsibilities seriously and make the necessary improvements.

Those who have been affected should be contacted by TeamSport. If you receive this letter you may be able to claim compensation once the matter has been investigated.

To ensure that you are fully informed and kept up-to-date, simply fill in our quick form and we will notify you about the investigation and your legal rights when making a claim.

 

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Is the law is evolving when it comes to data protection?

Last year, our managing director Kingsley Hayes revealed the key data privacy trends that our firm has seen since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. You can read more about these trends here.

One of these insights is that the law is still evolving when it comes to data protection.

What are we seeing?

Data privacy is still a relatively new area of law. So alterations are to be expected. But, over the past two decades, privacy and data protection laws have changed significantly. Not least because of advancements in technology which have transformed the way we all use personal data.

Certainly, the GDPR altered the legal landscape forever. The most significant change to data privacy regulations in over two decades, its purpose is to strengthen and unify data protection for all. But the GDPR was only the start of the data privacy evolution. And recently we have seen even more amendments.

Data privacy and data protection are more closely connected

Data privacy and data protection are very closely interconnected, but they are not the same thing.

  • The Data Protection Act (the UK’s interpretation of the GDPR) provides rules for how an organisation can collect, use and disclose personal information
  • Privacy laws in the UK create a balance between an organisation’s need to collect personal information and an individual’s right to maintain their personal privacy.

Today there is more emphasis on the relationship between privacy rights and data protection from a legal perspective. And this is good news for individuals as it means we can start a claim based on more than one ground (i.e. for the misuse of private information and for breach of data protection obligations).

It is possible to bring a compensation claim for distress?

Until recently, a person who suffered damage (e.g. a financial loss) might have had their compensation increased to take into account any associated distress, but in most cases, payment would not have been awarded for suffering alone.

However, in December 2017, the landmark High Court ruling in the Morrisons supermarket data breach case paved the way for those affected by data breaches to claim damages for distress, even if they have not suffered any financial loss.

Organisations can be held accountable for breaches caused by employees

The Morrison’s data breach case had another far-reaching implication. In this case, a disgruntled employee published the payroll data of almost 100,000 staff online.

Despite acknowledging that Morrisons had taken all the appropriate steps to prevent a breach, the High Court found that the company was primarily liable for its own acts and omissions (such as not ensuring the proper security measures to protect the data).

Crucially, the judge also ruled that Morrisons was “vicariously liable” for the employee’s actions. In a workplace context, an employer can be vicarious liability for the actions of its employees, as long as it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.

This means that it is now possible to hold organisations to account for data breaches caused by employees.

Furthermore, the Ticketmaster data breach case is also addressing the issue of whether it is possible to hold a company responsible for violations by third-parties.

Indeed, over the last few months we’ve talked to hundreds of people who have been affected by this shocking privacy breach, and our Ticketmaster compensation claim on behalf of 650 claimants is now ready to proceed. So, if you want to be included in our NO WIN, NO FEE claim, it’s vital that you act now.

No two cases are the same

Crucially the law now realises how important it is that cases are assessed in detail and on their unique merits. As such, the courts looking at a wider-range of factors when deciding on appropriate compensation (e.g. the consequences of the misuse of data, what information was breached, etc.).

Leading by example

At Hayes Connor, we want to reduce the number of data breaches taking place across the UK. To do this, we are helping to raise awareness of this issue and educating people and businesses to prevent data privacy violations from happening.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Alternatively, if you have been the victim of a data breach or cyber fraud, find out how we can help you to recover any losses or give us a call on 0330 995 0070 to discuss your case in more depth.

 

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Organisations are failing to understand the emotional impact of data breaches

At the end of last year, our managing director Kingsley Hayes revealed the key data privacy trends that our firm has seen since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. You can read more about these trends here.

One thing we are seeing is that the emotional impact of data breaches is not being taken seriously by those organisations we trust to look after our sensitive information.

What are we seeing?

At Hayes Connor Solicitors, we have received more than 2,500 enquiries from customers who have suffered as a direct result of a high profile data breach. That’s in the last six months alone.  And, every day we are also helping the victims of smaller data breaches that are causing misery and upset to people across the UK.

In most of these cases, the victim of the data breach will have tried to engage with the organisation that has committed the violation and been either rebuffed or provided with a wholly inadequate excuse.

In almost all cases, the organisation at fault fails to recognise the stress, anxiety, upset and anguish that is often a direct result of a data breach.

A personal data breach is a 21st-century version of being burgled

If a criminal came into your home and stole your private information, you would be distressed. So why should you feel any less upset at having your online data taken?

Being the victim of a crime can have a substantial impact on you mentally and physically. For some people, the effects can include a lack of sleep, feeling ill, unsettled or confused. Stress can also affect your friends, your family and your job.

We’ve seen cases where experiencing a data breach has resulted in adverse life events such as having to move house or area, losing a job, relationship stress and separation, and dislocation from friends and family. All of which can lead to a diagnosable psychological injury. And this is often happening months after the initial breach was revealed.

What do the experts say?

According to Victim Support:

“The effects of crime can also last for a long time, and it doesn’t depend on how ‘serious’ the crime was. Some people cope really well with the most horrific crimes while others can be very distressed by a more minor incident”.

Furthermore, at Hayes Connor we recently spoke to renowned clinical psychologist Professor Hugh C. H. Koch – visiting professor in law and psychology at Birmingham City University School of Law – to find out more about the typical psychological effects experienced by victims of data breaches. He said:

“Data breach victims typically experience high levels of anxiety, specific to the data breach but also generalised to other aspects of dealing with correspondence, telephone and digital communication and payment for services. Victims experience social anxiety, with difficulties dealing with friends and neighbours, tradesmen, shopping transactions and can develop oversensitivity or paranoia in their communications with others. They can also develop varying aspects of mood disturbances or depression especially including poor sleep and tearfulness.”

What does the law say?

Thankfully, over the last few years, people are waking up to the reality of mental health and there is a greater awareness about the lasting effects of physiological suffering and anguish.

Crucially, the law understands the damage that can be caused by worry and upset. So today, you can make a compensation claim if you have struggled emotionally following a data breach, even if you have not experienced any financial loss.

Organisations must educate themselves about the emotional impact of data breaches

Should a data breach occur at an organisation, it’s vital that an appropriate response is made. But, in our experience, all too often companies and their representatives (be they legal or insurance based) are still responding with a pre-packaged “we won’t do it again” approach.

However, it is vital that businesses not only do more to meet their data privacy responsibilities, but that they also provide an adequate response where they fail to do so.  And that requires a greater understanding of the full impact of privacy violations which can be significant and of a psychological nature.

Without such awareness – and appropriate measures to address the distress, anguish and anxiety that can be caused by data breaches – more and more customers will look for help to protect their privacy. And claim back from organisations where they have suffered.

Leading by example

At Hayes Connor, we want to reduce the number of data violations taking place across the UK. To do this, we are helping to raise awareness of this issue and educating people and businesses to prevent similar mistakes from happening.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Alternatively, if you have been the victim of a data breach or cyber fraud, find out how we can help you to recover any losses or give us a call on 0151 363 5895 to discuss your case in more depth.

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Hackers jailed for one of the biggest data breaches in history

Two friends from Staffordshire who carried out a huge data hack have been jailed. The pair, who are aged just 21 and 23, breached the TalkTalk website in 2015 as part of a group of hackers.

During the raid, the pair managed to get away with the names, addresses and dates of birth of 1.6 million TalkTalk customers, before sharing much of the data online. They pleaded guilty last year to various charges related to the cyberattack.

How did the hack affect TalkTalk?

TalkTalk was subsequently fined £400,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for not appropriately securing the data. In total it is thought that the cybersecurity incident has cost the telecoms firm a whopping £77 million in lost business.

In this case, the flaw in TalkTalk’s website that sparked the breach was exposed by another 17-year-old boy. The “significant, sophisticated systematic hack” is thought to be one of the biggest data breaches in history.

TalkTalk spotted issues with its site on 21 October 2015 and immediately launched an investigation before warning customers the following day. However, an inquiry by the ICO found that that insufficient security at the company permitted customer data to be accessed “with ease”. And that TalkTalk could have prevented the data breach if it had taken basic steps to protect its customers’ information.

According to the ICO: “For no good reason, TalkTalk appears to have overlooked the need to ensure it had robust measures in place despite having the financial and staffing resources available”.

What did the judge say?

Following the hack, TalkTalk’s then CEO faced blackmail attempts, with the hackers demanding Bitcoin in exchange for the stolen data.

Commenting on the two hackers, the judge said that they were “individuals of extraordinary talent” and that she was sure that their actions “caused misery and distress to the many thousands of the customers at TalkTalk.”

The pair were also caught with stolen login details to NASA systems.

The judge came down hard on the young cybercriminals, stating that “It is of the first importance that the court sends a clear message. Illegal activities on this scale are not a game. They will be taken very seriously by the courts.”

What to do immediately after a data breach

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you should:

  • Inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your concerns
  • Contact your bank and/or credit card providers immediately
  • Beware of fraudsters who attempt to gather personal information (phishing)
  • Report any suspected phishing attempts to the police and relevant authorities
  • Look out for any bills or emails showing goods or services you haven’t ordered, or any unfamiliar transactions on your account and alert your bank or card provider immediately if there is any suspicious activity
  • Keep an eye on your credit score for any unexpected dips. Call Credit, Experian and Equifax to ensure credit isn’t taken out in your name
  • Beware of any unsolicited communications that refer you to a web page asking for personal data
  • Register with a suitable fraud prevention service
  • Change your passwords.
  • If you are offered any form of compensation or free services from the organisation that put your data at risk it’s important to check the small print. Be careful that in accepting any offer you are not giving away your rights to pursue a separate data breach compensation claim at a later date
  • Contact Hayes Connor Solicitors. Our expert, online fraud and data protection solicitors will advise you on whether you have a valid claim and will be pleased to answer any questions you might have. Our initial assessment is always free. We’ll ensure that you are fully informed on this matter and will notify you about the investigation and your legal rights when making a claim.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MAKING A DATA BREACH CLAIM.

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120k police officers in the UK have had their personal details exposed

What happened in this case?

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), has suffered a severe data breach across a number of its databases. As a result of a ransomware cyber-attack, the names, email addresses, National Insurance numbers, ranks and serving forces of around 120,000 police officers have been exposed. The breach affects officers at all levels up to the rank of chief inspector.

In addition, a second database has also been affected. This violation involves a booking system for the PFEW conference and hotel facilities in Leatherhead. The breach includes the names, addresses and email addresses of guests who visited for leisure purposes. Any guests who stayed at the facilities between 1 September 2018 and 9 March 2019 may also have had their financial details (credit card number and expiry date) put at risk. The breach does not affect officers who stayed as Federation representatives on courses.

A third database has also been breached. This involves the PFEW claims case management system. Any member who requested PFEW assistance for an investigation, inquiry or complaint during their service (if dealt with at HQ at Leatherhead) could have had their name, address, National Insurance number, and bank details accessed by cybercriminals.

The PFEW was alerted to the ransomware cyber-attack on March 9th. However, members were not informed about the breach until 21st, and a helpline for those affected was only made available from Friday 22 March.

Local Federation branches have not been affected.

How has the Police Federation responded?

In a letter to its members, the Federation said: “We are deeply sorry that this has happened and that data we hold about you has been affected and know that this will cause you some concern.

“We have instructed a leading forensics firm to help us investigate the matter. This is a complex process and will take some time. Indications are that it was not targeted specifically at PFEW and was likely part of a wider campaign. There is also no evidence at this stage that any data was extracted from PFEW’s systems, although this cannot be discounted at this stage. Whilst we consider at this stage the risk of your data being extracted or misused is low, we wanted to alert members as to the risk at the earliest opportunity.”

This response is not good enough

Commenting on the breach, Kingsley Hayes, managing director at Hayes Connor Solicitors said: “While the Federation claims that the risk to data is low, there is no way that they can know that. In many data breach cases it can take months for the full impact and losses to become apparent. We have seen instances where the financial losses only start to occur three to six months later. This is often because data stolen is used in batches over time.

“What’s more, simply knowing that your details could be in the hands of cybercriminals can lead to anxiety and distress. Experiencing a data breach can result in adverse life events such as having to move house or area, losing a job, relationship stress and separation, and dislocation from friends and family. All of which can lead to a diagnosable psychological injury.

“For police officers knowing that their personal information could be in the hands of criminals is bound to be even more distressing.”

What is happening now?

The PFEW has been working with the National Crime Agency who is dealing with this incident as a criminal offence. It has also put a number of measures in place to help stop the further spread of the malware. In addition, the Federation is liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre and the Information Commissioner’s Office as this matter is investigated.

Where to get help

The Federation has said that any officers concerned about fraud or lost data should contact Action Fraud. Advice can also be obtained from the National Cyber Security Centre.

The PFEW helpline is also available on 0800 358 0714. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 3pm.

Furthermore, the PFEW website has the latest information and FAQs regarding this breach.

Claiming for compensation

At Hayes Connor, our expert solicitors deal with a significant number of data breach cases every day. During our work, we see many different types of claims and understand how data breaches can affect people in different ways.

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you have a right to claim compensation.

In most cases, data breaches happen because of a failure to implement reasonable and robust processes. So claiming compensation isn’t just in your best interests, it is often the only way organisations will be persuaded to take their responsibilities seriously and make the necessary improvements.

If you have been affected and want advice contact us today