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BA fined record £20m for customer data breach

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA</span>
Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

British Airways has been fined a record £20m for a data breach in which more than 400,000 customers’ personal details were compromised by hackers in 2018.

The fine is the biggest ever issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but a fraction of the £183m fine initially announced last year. This was reduced after investigators accepted BA’s representations about the circumstances of the attack; and was reduced further to take into account the dire financial position of BA since the onset of Covid-19.

Investigators found BA had failed to put sufficient security measures in place to protect its customers’ details. The airline took more than two months to detect the cyber-attack, which started in June 2018.

The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said BA failed to take adequate measures to keep customers’ personal 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,” she said.

“When organisations take poor decisions around people’s personal data, that can have a real impact on people’s lives.”

The BA case was the first major one to be carried out under toughened data laws that allow for far heavier fines as a proportion of a company’s turnover than had previously been the case.

The ICO found BA ought to have identified weaknesses in its security, and could have resolved them with security measures available at the time. Of the approximately 430,000 customers and staff affected by the breach, about 244,000 people had their full name, addresses and payment card details, including the CVV security number, exposed.

A BA spokesman said: “We alerted customers as soon as we became aware of the criminal attack on our systems in 2018 and are sorry we fell short of our customers’ expectations.

“We are pleased the ICO recognises that we have made considerable improvements to the security of our systems since the attack and that we fully cooperated with its investigation.”