Home Security Forgotten server earns UK university big fine

The University of Greenwich in the UK has been fined £120,000 by the Information Commissioner for forgetting and leaving online a server linked to a database with personal data of 19,500 university students, staff, alumni and conference visitors.

The server was set up in 2004 by a student and an academic in the Computing and Mathematics School for a training conference and was compromised in 2013, the ICO said.

Three years later, multiple attackers gained access to the server and made their way to other parts of the university's network.

The fine was levied by the ICO under the data protection legislation that was put in place in 1998.

The profiles of about 3500 individuals contained sensitive data such as information on extenuating circumstances, details of learning difficulties and staff sickness records and all this was subsequently posted online after the compromise.

ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersely said: "Whilst the microsite was developed in one of the University’s departments without its knowledge, as a data controller it is responsible for the security of data throughout the institution.

“Students and members of staff had a right to expect that their personal information would be held securely and this serious breach would have caused significant distress. The nature of the data and the number of people affected have informed our decision to impose this level of fine.”

The University said it had beefed up securities in the wake of the fine by

  • making major investments in new security architecture, tools and technologies;
  • hiring new dedicated internal experts whose sole focus is information security;
  • conducting vulnerability testing across the entire organisation every day – the only university, so far as we know, to do so;
  • making information security training mandatory for all staff;
  • reforming the system of internal IT governance; and
  • developing a rapid incident response to tackle threats as they arise and quickly learn lessons from incidents.

If the fine is paid by 15 June, the amount will be reduced by 20%.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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