The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning organisations that they must make sure their websites are protected against one of the most common forms of online attack – SQL injection.
The warning comes after the hotel booking website, Worldview Limited, was fined £7,500 following a serious data breach where a vulnerability on the company’s site allowed attackers to access the full payment card details of 3,814 customers.
The data was accessed after the attacker exploited a flaw on a page of the Worldview website to access the company’s customer database. Although customers’ payment details had been encrypted, the means to decrypt the information – known as the decryption key – were stored with the data. This oversight allowed the attackers to access the customers’ full card details, including the three digit security code needed to authorise payment.
The weakness had existed on the website since May 2010 and was only uncovered during a routine update on 28 June 2013. The attackers had access to the information for ten days. The company has now corrected the flaw and invested in improving its IT security systems.
Worldview Limited would have received a £75,000 penalty but the ICO was required to consider the impact any penalty would have on the company’s financial situation.
Attacks are preventable
Simon Rice, the ICO’s Group Manager for Technology, said: “It may come as a surprise to many in the IT security industry that this type of attack is still allowed to occur. SQL injection attacks are preventable but organisations need to spend the necessary time and effort to make sure their website isn’t vulnerable. Worldview Limited failed to do this, allowing the card details of over 3,000 customers to be compromised.”
Rice added: “Organisations must act now to avoid one of the oldest hackers’ tricks in the book. If you don’t have the expertise in-house then find someone who does, otherwise you may be the next organisation on the end of an ICO fine and the reputational damage that results from a serious data breach.”