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Watford Community Housing Trust involved in personal information data breach

Watford Community Housing Trust has inadvertently leaked the personal details of 3,545 tenants. The violation happened when the Trust sent out an email to residents, informing them of changes to services during the coronavirus outbreak and the closure of its offices on Clarendon Road.

If you want to claim compensation for the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach, Hayes Connor Solicitors can help. 

Register to tell us about how the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach has affected you. Or contact us on 0151 363 5895*.


What details were breached by Watford Community Housing?

Attached to the email was a spreadsheet containing the personal information of thousands of tenants. This included addresses, contact details, gender and sexual orientation. It is believed that everyone who received the email, also received the spreadsheet.

While Watford Community Housing Trust had hoped to reassure residents, the data breach has only led to more anxiety at this already difficult time.

The impact of the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach is devastating for many people

There are already calls for all 3,545 tenants to be compensated for the breach.

Speaking to the Watford Observer, one of the individuals affected said: “There’s vulnerable people out there, the information being leaked has put so many tenants in life changing and life-threatening situations. This is not appropriate. Therefore, an apology isn’t enough – everyone should be compensated.”

Another was reported to feel “horrible” that her sexuality was shared with thousands of people.

There were also concerns that home addresses were now publicly available, perhaps to people that some of those affected were trying to avoid.

At Hayes Connor, we have also been contacted by Watford Community Housing Trust residents, worried about the increased risk – some of who are vulnerable and now living in fear.

Coronavirus and data breaches

Hayes Connor has already raised concerns about a potential increase in data breaches during the coronavirus pandemic. We believe that these could occur in several different ways. For example:

An increase in phishing emails and coronavirus scams

Hayes Connor has warned people to be on their guard in case of coronavirus scams and phishing messages. Earlier this week, it was discovered that fraudsters were going door-to-door pretending to offer coronavirus tests. But, it’s not just doorstep criminals we need to look out for. According to Action Fraud, coronavirus scams have cost victims over £800k in just one month.

Find out more about this here.

An increase in data breaches due to homeworking

As businesses navigate the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and respond by increasing home and remote working, careful consideration around data security is also paramount.

Talking about this, Kingsley Hayes, our managing director and data protection expert, said:

“Businesses are operating in unchartered waters with no definite future forecast. The impact of the coronavirus crisis will be far-reaching. Commercial survival will rely on the ability of organisations to quickly adapt working practices to keep staff and clients safe while maintaining business as usual.

 “Technology facilitates the ease with which many legal practices can adapt to employees working remotely however, being mindful of potential data protection risks, and quickly implementing appropriate security measures, should be front of mind.

 “The National Cyber Security Centre advises organisations to have a mobile working policy to ensure that all staff are not only aware of the increased risks, but also that all employees adopt the relevant security measures.

 “The vast majority of data breaches take place due to human error. Preventing incidents can be as simple as carefully considering the remote working environment. Working from the privacy of home, rather than a public place for example, can reduce the risks.

 “Appropriately limiting remote access to and storage of files and information and sending encrypted data, if possible, will also prevent costly data breach incidents. The way in which businesses operate in the current climate has changed however, data protection obligations remain the same.”

 An increase in human error

As the coronavirus situation escalates, we are all feeling more anxious than usual. Human error is the greatest cause of data breaches at the best of times, so it is to be expected that such instances might increase when people are worried and confused.

However, while stress and nervousness might explain why someone might make an error, there is no excuse for organisations that do not have robust data security processes in place to prevent such breaches from happening in the first place.

Watford Community Housing might “apologise unreservedly for this breach”, but had it implemented some simple security measures (e.g. password controls/encryption on sensitive data), any damage could have been alleviated.

What can you do about the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach?

According to Watford Community Housing, anyone with concerns should email CustomerRelationsTeam@wcht.org.uk in the first instance.

However, with many tenants left upset, angry and even scared, more has to be done.

If you want to claim compensation following the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach, Hayes Connor can help. Our professional, friendly team will be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

We also understand that making a compensation claim can be stressful; especially where sensitive information is already breached. So, we remove the jargon and make sure you always know what’s happening with your case.

The UK’s leading data breach law firm, we may be able to act for you on a NO WIN, NO FEE basis – so you have nothing to lose.

Register to tell us about how the Watford Community Housing Trust data breach has affected you. Or contact us on 0151 363 5895*.

*Read our coronavirus statement to find out more about how we are continuing to serve our clients during the COVID-19 outbreak.