IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Cabinet Office fined £500,000 for New Year Honours data leak

Error led to more than 1,000 people having their names and corresponding addresses posted online

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined the Cabinet Office £500,000 for a 2020 data leak that exposed the full names and addresses of the New Year Honours recipients on its gov.uk web page.

More than 1,000 people were affected by the leak, with some complaining that they felt concerned for their personal safety. Notable inclusions in the list were Sir Elton John, Dame Olivia Newton-John, and Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

The ICO concluded the Cabinet Office had breached the Data Protection Act 2018 as a result, and was punished according to the rules set out by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It was also found that the Cabinet Office failed to implement the appropriate technical and organisational measures in its IT systems to protect the data of those affected.

"When data breaches happen, they have real life consequences," said Steve Eckersley, ICO Director of Investigations. "In this case, more than 1,000 people were affected. At a time when they should have been celebrating and enjoying the announcement of their honour, they were faced with the distress of their personal details being exposed.

"The Cabinet Office’s complacency and failure to mitigate the risk of a data breach meant that hundreds of people were potentially exposed to the risk of identity fraud and threats to their personal safety," he added.

“The fine issued today sends a message to other organisations that looking after people’s information safely, as well as regularly checking that appropriate measures are in place, must be at the top of their agenda."

The IT system in question was implemented in 2019 but was misconfigured, according to the ICO. It generated a .CSV file for the New Year Honours list, which included full names and corresponding home addresses, before posting it online.

Related Resource

How to secure workloads in hybrid clouds

Cloud workload protection

Whitepaper front coverFree download

The team responsible for generating and publishing the list were under tight deadlines, the ICO reported, and instead of fixing the system, it attempted to amend the file instead. However, each time a new file was generated, the .CSV file included full addresses.

Despite removing the file shortly after posted it online, a cached version remained accessible to the public. The ICO reported the file was accessed 3,872 times in the period of two hours and 21 minutes that it was online.

The Cabinet Office confirmed that there were no specific or written processes in place at the time to sign off documents and content containing personal data prior to being sent for publication.

The ICO acknowledged the swiftness of the Cabinet Office's response and undertook a full incident review, which has led to operational and technical improvements, and an independent review launched into the incident.

"The Cabinet Office would like to reiterate our apology for this incident," it said in a statement to IT Pro. "We took action to mitigate any potential harm by immediately informing the Information Commissioner and everyone affected by the breach.

"We take the findings of the Information Commissioner very seriously, and have completed an internal review as well as implemented a number of measures to ensure this does not happen again. This includes a review of the overall security of the system, information management training and improving internal processes for how data is handled by the honours team.”

Featured Resources

The Total Economic Impact™ Of Turbonomic Application Resource Management for IBM Cloud® Paks

Business benefits and cost savings enabled by IBM Turbonomic Application Resource Management

Free Download

The Total Economic Impact™ of IBM Watson Assistant

Cost savings and business benefits enabled by Watson Assistant

Free Download

The field guide to application modernisation

Moving forward with your enterprise application portfolio

Free Download

AI for customer service

Discover the industry-leading AI platform that customers and employees want to use

Free Download

Recommended

ICO crackdown on AI recruitment part of three-year vision to save businesses £100 million
data protection

ICO crackdown on AI recruitment part of three-year vision to save businesses £100 million

14 Jul 2022
ICO publishes new data protection standards for the adtech industry
data protection

ICO publishes new data protection standards for the adtech industry

25 Nov 2021
Celebrity data leaked after ransomware attack on London's Graff jewellers
ransomware

Celebrity data leaked after ransomware attack on London's Graff jewellers

1 Nov 2021

Most Popular

Why convenience is the biggest threat to your security
Sponsored

Why convenience is the biggest threat to your security

8 Aug 2022
How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

29 Jul 2022
UK water supplier confirms hack by Cl0p ransomware gang
ransomware

UK water supplier confirms hack by Cl0p ransomware gang

16 Aug 2022