ICO to make enquiries into El Reg email snafu

The Register

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is to look into a data blunder at The Register tech publication, which saw email addresses and names of thousands of readers exposed.

The Register accidentally sent 3,521 people the names and email addresses of 46,524 readers between 08:58 and 10:20 BST yesterday.

In a contrite tone, somewhat different from its typically irreverent manner, the publication took to its website to explain why the error occurred.

"Obviously, this was an error. The two-stage send process that is the norm for all of our mailers was over-looked because someone was in a hurry," the Register said.

"We would like to offer our genuine and humble apologies for the error. If you would like to vent at that someone, their email address is here: data@theregister.co.uk."

The Register was quick to contact the ICO about the breach. The data protection watchdog said it will investigate the matter before it takes any action.

The two-stage send process that is the norm for all of our mailers was over-looked because someone was in a hurry...

"We are aware of a possible data breach which may involve The Register," an ICO spokesperson said.

"We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken."

The ICO has been quiet in handing out fines of late. The regulator needs proof people have been genuinely harmed by a data breach before it issues any monetary penalties.

Whilst in the case of The Register the data breach was not immediately serious, hackers could still use the emails to either spam or compromise accounts.

Given how simple people's passwords often are, just having an email address can be enough to inspire a cyber criminal to break into an account.

The Register felt the pain of a hack attack earlier this year when a number of domain registrars were compromised. Attackers changed Domain Name System (DNS) records to redirect Register readers to another site.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.