Feeds

'Blagging' info thieves fined £14,800

Married couple sold info to private eyes

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A married couple has been convicted of stealing and selling personal data and has been ordered to pay £14,800 in fines and costs. Between them the pair were convicted of 25 cases of illegally obtaining and selling information.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which brought the case, said it has begun an investigation into organisations which buy illegally obtained information.

The convicted couple, Stephen and Sharon Anderson of St Ives in Cambridgeshire, used social engineering, rather than technology to steal the data. They "blagged" the information from organisations including HM Revenue and Customs and BT.

By phoning organisations and often posing as employees, the couple were able to obtain bank account details, income tax information, and ex-directory telephone numbers of their targets.

The Guardian newspaper has reported that the pair were working for private detective agencies which hired them to find out information about specific people. Such information is often paid for by clients involved in disputes with spouses or by newspapers.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas recently issued a report in which he condemned the widespread use of detective agencies and private contractors to trade in illegally obtained and illicitly traded personal information.

"Investigations by the ICO and the police have uncovered evidence of a widespread and organised undercover market in confidential personal information," said the report, What Price Privacy?

"Among the 'buyers' are many journalists looking for a story. In one major case investigated by the ICO, the evidence included records of information supplied to 305 named journalists working for a range of newspapers. Other cases have involved finance companies and local authorities wishing to trace debtors; estranged couples seeking details of their partner's whereabouts or finances; and criminals intent on fraud or witness or juror intimidation," said the report.

"The 'suppliers' almost invariably work within the private investigation industry: private investigators, tracing agents, and their operatives, often working loosely in chains that may include several intermediaries between ultimate customer and the person who actually obtains the information," it said.

Thomas wants to see stiffer sentencing for those convicted of such offences. "The crime at present carries no custodial sentence," he wrote in the report's introduction. "When cases involving the unlawful procurement or sale of confidential personal information come before the courts, convictions often bring no more than a derisory fine or a conditional discharge. Low penalties devalue the data protection offence in the public mind."

ICO regulatory action division head Mick Gorill said the office was conducting investigations into organisations which buy private and illegally obtained information.

Jon Sanders is a managing director who experienced problems after his bank account details and mortgage payments details were illegally obtained. "My wife's and my personal information was gathered because of my business dealings but it has had a detrimental impact on my family life as my wife is very upset," he said.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.