The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning organisations that they must make sure their websites are protected against one of the most common forms of online attack – known as SQL injection.

The warning comes after the hotel booking website, Worldview Limited, was fined £7,500 following a serious data breach where a vulnerability on the company’s site allowed attackers to access the full payment card details of 3,814 customers.

The data was accessed after the attacker exploited a flaw on a page of the Worldview website to access the company’s customer database. Although customers’ payment details had been encrypted, the means to decrypt the information – known as the decryption key - was stored with the data. This oversight allowed the attackers to access the customers’ full card details, including the three digit security code needed to authorise payment.

The weakness had existed on the website since May 2010 and was only uncovered during a routine update on 28 June 2013. The attackers had access to the information for ten days. The company has now corrected the flaw and have invested in improving their IT security systems.

Worldview Limited would have received a £75,000 penalty but the ICO was required to consider the impact any penalty would have on the company’s financial situation.

Simon Rice, ICO Group Manager for Technology, said:

“It may come as a surprise to many in the IT security industry that this type of attack is still allowed to occur. SQL injection attacks are preventable but organisations need to spend the necessary time and effort to make sure their website isn’t vulnerable. Worldview Limited failed to do this, allowing the card details of over three thousand customers to be compromised.

“Organisations must act now to avoid one of the oldest hackers' tricks in the book. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, then find someone who does, otherwise you may be the next organisation on the end of an ICO fine and the reputational damage that results from a serious data breach.”

Simon has written a blog explaining how an SQL injection attack works and how organisations can protect themselves from it. The ICO has also published a report explaining how organisations can protect themselves from SQL attacks and the other common IT security failings uncovered during its recent investigations.

 

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, and produces a monthly e-newsletter.

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
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection


5. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.