ICO to investigate Tesco over website security concerns

Tesco website

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is to investigate a number of security issues surrounding supermarket giant Tesco's customer website.

A couple of weeks ago, security researcher Troy Hunt pointed out in a blog that he received a password reminder from Tesco that contained his password in plain text.

Hunt told the BBC that this showed Tesco's password data was not being securely stored. A more secure way of storing passwords would be to send users details on how to reset a password rather than sending the password itself in plain text.

The researcher also said that the retailer should use HTTPS across the entire site in order to protect customers from phishing and other attacks.

Although HTTPS is used on some part of the website, it isn't in others and Hunt said this does not assure customers using the site.

"HTTP is stateless so the only (practical) way a state, such as being logged in, can be persisted is by passing cookies backwards and forwards between the browser and the website," he said.

"Because they're being sent over a HTTP connection, anyone who can watch the traffic can see those same cookies. And copy them. And hijack your session."

The allegations surrounding the debacle have become serious enough for the ICO to launch an inquiry into the retailer's security measures. A spokesman for the ICO told IT Pro that investigations into the problem were at an "early stage".

"We are aware of these issues and will be making enquiries," said the spokesman.

Tesco responded with a statement saying: "We know how important internet security is to customers and the measures we have are robust. We are never complacent and work continuously to give customers the confidence that they can shop securely."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.