Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

T-Mobile: Employee Data Theft Leads To U.K.'s Largest Data Breach

Employee sold millions of customer records to data brokers, reports say

An employee of wireless service provider T-Mobile sold millions of customer database records to data brokers, leading to the biggest breach ever seen in the U.K., according to news reports.

The U.K. Information Commissioners Office (ICO), a British privacy watchdog organization, revealed yesterday that a mobile service operator had lost "thousands" of customer records sold by an employee who had access to the service provider's database. The employee, who no longer works at the service provider, earned "substantial sums" for selling the records, which were used by rival providers to get customers to switch services, the ICO says.

The ICO did not initially name the provider, but T-Mobile issued a statement earlier today:

"T-Mobile takes the protection of customer information seriously. When it became apparent that contract renewal information was being passed on to third parties without our knowledge, we alerted the [ICO].

"Working together, we identified the source of the breach, which led to the ICO conducting an extensive investigation which we believe we will lead to a prosecution. While it is deeply regrettable that customer information has been misappropriated in this way, we have proactively supported the ICO to help stamp out what is a problem for the whole industry."

T-Mobile had been asked by law enforcement to keep the incident quiet, but comments released to the BBC yesterday let the cat out of the bag, the statement says.

T-Mobile has been named in other data security scandals, most recently in August, when eight defendants were arraigned in a Brooklyn court for allegedly using the stolen identities of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Asurion customers to steal some $22 million worth of wireless equipment and services.

In June, a hacker claimed to have stolen a large amount of customer data from T-Mobile and then offered to sell it to the highest bidder.

According to a news report in London's Guardian newspaper, the employee allegedly sold the account information to a number of "brokers," who sold the data on to rival providers.

"The number of records involved runs into the millions, and it appears that substantial amounts of money changed hands," the ICO says. The data included customers' contract renewal dates, which make it easier for competitors to find prospective service switchers, the news reports say. The ICO says it had raided a number of premises and was preparing a prosecution file.

The ICO is pushing for breaches of data protection law to be punishable with jail sentences, not just fines, the news report says.

Steve Moyle, CTO of database security provider Secerno, agrees.

"The U.S. had a highly publicized case in which two employees of Countrywide Home Loans were prosecuted for illegally downloading and selling customer records," Moyle observes. "What makes this breach different is the large number of potential victims -- millions vs. Countrywide's thousands."

Moyle criticizes "the paltry sums that the offenders will be charged from violating the Data Security Act."

"The culprits will be charged thousands of pounds, which is not high enough to be a deterrent," Moyle says. "The fines need to match the severity of the crime and to reinforce the notion that stealing a person's information is a crime. These current fine amounts are not enough to do that, and the proof will come from the affected customers, who are likely to agree."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-20027
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
A buffer overflow vulnerability in SonicOS allows a remote attacker to cause a Denial of Service (DoS) by sending a specially crafted request. This vulnerability affects SonicOS Gen5, Gen6, Gen7 platforms, and SonicOSv virtual firewalls.
CVE-2021-32684
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
magento-scripts contains scripts and configuration used by Create Magento App, a zero-configuration tool-chain which allows one to deploy Magento 2. In versions 1.5.1 and 1.5.2, after changing the function from synchronous to asynchronous there wasn't implemented handler in the start, stop, exec, an...
CVE-2021-34693
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
net/can/bcm.c in the Linux kernel through 5.12.10 allows local users to obtain sensitive information from kernel stack memory because parts of a data structure are uninitialized.
CVE-2021-27887
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the main dashboard of Ellipse APM versions allows an authenticated user or integrated application to inject malicious data into the application that can then be executed in a victim’s browser. This issue affects: Hitachi ABB Power Grids ...
CVE-2021-27196
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
Improper Input Validation vulnerability in Hitachi ABB Power Grids Relion 670 Series, Relion 670/650 Series, Relion 670/650/SAM600-IO, Relion 650, REB500, RTU500 Series, FOX615 (TEGO1), MSM, GMS600, PWC600 allows an attacker with access to the IEC 61850 network with knowledge of how to reproduce the...