Low-cost energy supplier People’s Energy has suffered a data breach affecting every one of its 270,000 customers in the UK.
The breach was discovered on 16 December when an unauthorised third party gained access to one of the systems used to store some of the members’ data. The company said that as soon as it became aware of the breach, it shut down access to affected systems.
The company has since informed the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the energy industry regulator, Ofgem.
According to the company, cyber criminals managed to access the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, People’s Energy account numbers, tariff details, and gas and electricity meter identification numbers of all customers.
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"Details for all our members were accessed," an email sent to customers read. "This includes both current members and former members who’ve used us as their energy supplier in the past. We’re doing everything we can to contact everyone affected to explain what’s happened. We’ve informed the Information Commissioner’s Office and the energy industry regulator, Ofgem. We’re following their guidance, and are keeping them updated on the situation."
"We take keeping your data safe extremely seriously. Right now, we’re working with a dedicated external security team to add additional protection to our systems. Your financial data is kept in a separate system with enhanced security."
Chris Clements, VP of Solutions Architecture at Cerberus Sentinel, told IT Pro that there must be a fundamental change in mindset regarding information security for all organisations.
“Risks from cyber-attack need to be taken with the same seriousness as risks from fire or flooding. The reality is that most security compromises are simple attacks of opportunity and every organization is a viable target for cybercriminals,” he said.
“The same way organisations invest in fire suppression and alarm systems they also must consider cybersecurity protection and monitoring as part of the cost of doing business. It’s critical that this starts with adopting a culture of security from executive management to individual line of business contributors."
Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate at Comparitech.com, told IT Pro that People's Energy customers should be on the lookout for targeted phishing messages from fraudsters posing as People's Energy or a related company.
“They will use the personal information stored in the database to customise messages and make them more convincing. Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails, and always verify the sender's identity before responding,” he said.
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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.