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ACS:Law fined for data breach

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ACS:Law has been fined by the Information Commissioner's Office for failing to follow data protection law.

The one-man law firm, which has since ceased trading, won infamy for using IP numbers to accuse people of illegal file-sharing. Victims received a letter offering to settle the claims rather than go to court. But ACS:Law never took anyone to court, and some judges doubted whether it ever had the legal basis to do so.

The ICO said it would have fined ACS:Law £200,000 for failing to keep information secure, but since it's gone titsup it will instead fine Andrew Crossley as an individual.

Crossley has been served with notice to pay a fine of £1,000 because he has limited means.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: "Sensitive personal details relating to thousands of people were made available for download to a worldwide audience and will have caused them embarrassment and considerable distress. The security measures ACS Law had in place were barely fit for purpose in a person's home environment, let alone a business handling such sensitive details ... As Mr Crossley was a sole trader, it falls on the individual to pay the fine. Were it not for the fact that ACS:Law has ceased trading so that Mr Crossley now has limited means, a monetary penalty of £200,000 would have been imposed."

A spokeswoman for the ICO said Crossley had provided the court with a written, legal statement showing he was skint.

ACS:Law's website was brought down in September 2010.

Crossley's arrogance at the time spurred on the hackers to deeper attacks and the eventual leaking of 6,000 people's details. At the time, he told the Reg: "It was only down for a few hours. I have far more concern over the fact of my train turning up 10 minutes late or having to queue for a coffee than them wasting my time with this sort of rubbish."

The ICO found Crossley had failed to seek professional advice when setting up systems, had used a hosting service aimed at home users and had failed to install a firewall. ®

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