It is the Information Commissioner’s biggest data breach fine to date and falls under the GDPR regime
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined British Airways £20m (€22m) for failing to prevent and detect a data breach involving over 400,000 of its customers.
An ICO investigation found the airline was processing a significant amount of personal data without adequate security measures in place. This failure broke data protection law and, subsequently, BA was the subject of a cyber-attack during 2018, which it did not detect for more than two months.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “People entrusted their personal details to BA and BA failed to take adequate measures to keep those details secure.
“Their failure to act was unacceptable and affected hundreds of thousands of people, which may have caused some anxiety and distress as a result. That’s why we have issued BA with a £20m fine – our biggest to date.
“When organisations take poor decisions around people’s personal data, that can have a real impact on people’s lives. The law now gives us the tools to encourage businesses to make better decisions about data, including investing in up-to-date security.”
Because the BA breach happened in June 2018, before the UK left the EU, the ICO investigated on behalf of all EU authorities as lead supervisory authority under the GDPR. The penalty and action have been approved by the other EU DPAs through the GDPR’s cooperation process.
In June 2019 the ICO issued BA with a notice of intent to fine. As part of the regulatory process the ICO considered both representations from BA and the economic impact of COVID-19 on their business before setting a final penalty.
ICO investigators found that BA did not detect the attack on 22 June 2018 themselves but were alerted by a third party more than two months afterwards on 5 September. Once they became aware BA acted promptly and notified the ICO.
It is not clear whether or when BA would have identified the attack themselves. This was considered to be a severe failing because of the number of people affected and because any potential financial harm could have been more significant.