The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning businesses that they must be prepared for a targeted attack. The warning comes as the Racing Post signs a commitment to improve its IT security practices after 677,335 accounts were compromised during a data breach in October 2013.

The attack exploited existing vulnerabilities in the website that allowed a hacker to gain access to the company’s database of registered customers. The information compromised included the customer’s name, address, password, date of birth and telephone number.

An investigation by the ICO found that the company had carried out penetration testing on its website in 2007. However, the company failed to apply up-to-date security patches after this time leaving a vulnerability which the attacker exploited. The ICO also found problems with the way the company stored its customers’ information.

ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said:

“There is barely a day that goes by without a company being the target of an online attack. This is the modern world and businesses and other organisations must have adequate security measures in place to keep people’s information secure.

“The Racing Post pulled up short when it came to protecting their customers’ information by failing to keep their IT systems up-to-date. This data breach should act as a warning to all businesses that poor IT security practices are providing an open invitation to your customers’ details.”

The Racing Post has signed an undertaking committing the company to taking action to improve their compliance with the Data Protection Act by keeping their customers’ details secure. This includes introducing routine security testing and having a policy in place to ensure security updates are regularly applied by 28 February 2015.

The ICO can issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act. An undertaking was agreed after its investigation found that the financial information of Racing Post’s customers was not compromised during the attack and the information accessed would not have caused substantial damage and distress to the individuals affected. This is the statutory bar the ICO needs to meet in order to issue a penalty notice.

Further information

The information was compromised after an SQL injection attack on the Racing Post website. The ICO’s Group Manager for Technology, Simon Rice, has written a blog explaining how an SQL injection attack works and how organisations can protect themselves from it.


If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070 or visit the website at:

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Read more in the ICO blog and e-newsletter. Our Press Office page provides more information for journalists.
4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

Fairly and lawfully processed
Processed for limited purposes 
Adequate, relevant and not excessive 
Accurate and up to date 
Not kept for longer than is necessary 
Processed in line with your rights 
Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection