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Newcastle council credit card file lifted

Up to 54,000 people affected in bureaucratic bungle

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Newcastle City Council has compromised private details of up to 54,000 people who made payments to it by credit or debit card between February 2006 and April 2007.

The council said details were "inappropriately released" of transactions for "council tax, business rates, parking fines, and rent payments... other services, such as at leisure centres, tourist information centres, museums, theatres and galleries have not been compromised".

The council says a single file was compromised, containing names, addresses and credit card numbers (although the card numbers were encrypted). No details of either PIN numbers or security code numbers were in the file. Apparently, the file in question was placed on an insecure server and subsequently uploaded to "a computer address registered outside the country".

This was discovered during a council-ordered security checkup by an "independent industry expert".

Newcastle council became aware of the breach last Thursday and has informed the banks, the police, and the Information Commissioner. An investigation is ongoing.

Council chief executive Ian Stratford said:

"We are now fully confident that our systems are properly robust, so we are continuing to receive payments by credit and debit cards. We very much regret that this situation has developed, although would again stress that there has been no indication of any fraud or loss, and that we spotted this situation through the thoroughness of our own security and checking systems."

The Reg has seen a copy of an internal council email highlighting the matter. It says:

"[Council] Staff should be reassured that it only refers to credit and debit card transactions with the council and has no implications for their details on payroll..."

It's always good to see a sense of priorities being maintained. ®

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