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Airline to appeal

Record fine for British Airways over customer data theft

British Airways pic

BA is facing a fine and industrial action

British Airways is facing a £183.4m fine over the theft of customer data. It is the biggest penalty delivered by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office.

The airline’s owner IAG says the penalty is equivalent to 1.5% of British Airways’ worldwide turnover for the financial year ended 31 December 2017. IAG says it intends to appeal against the decision.

The proposed fine relates to a cyber incident notified to the ICO’s office by BA in September 2018, the ICO said. The incident in part involved user traffic to the British Airways website being diverted to a fraudulent site.

Through this false site, customer details were harvested by the attackers. Personal data of approximately 500,000 customers were compromised in this incident, which is believed to have begun in June 2018.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, said: “People’s personal data is just that – personal. When an organisation fails to protect it from loss, damage or theft it is more than an inconvenience. That’s why the law is clear – when you are entrusted with personal data you must look after it. Those that don’t will face scrutiny from my office to check they have taken appropriate steps to protect fundamental privacy rights.

British Airways chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz, said: “We are surprised and disappointed in this initial finding from the ICO.

“British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers’ data. We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused.”

Industrial action

The airline is also facing the prospect of industrial action. It will begin talks with its pilots today to avert a potentially damaging summer strike.

Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which the airline says is “fair and generous”.

Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group chief executive, said: “British Airways will be making representations to the ICO in relation to the proposed fine.

“We intend to take all appropriate steps to defend the airline’s position vigorously, including making any necessary appeals,” he added.

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