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Piracy law firm leak raises privacy concerns

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 27 Sep 2010 at 16:29

Privacy International is planning legal action against a law firm after a security breach allegedly leaked personal information of thousands of internet users.

The data was held by ACS:Law, a firm that has tracked internet users to pursue legal action for breach of copyright. The leak happened as ACS:Law was trying to bring its site back online following a denial of service attack.

Although the full extent of the breach remains unclear, Privacy International claimed one email alone contained the personal information of some 10,000 people assumed to have been involved in file-sharing of pornographic works, exposing their names, addresses, postcodes, and internet protocol addresses.

"This data breach is likely to result in significant harm to tens of thousands of people in the form of fraud, identity theft and severe emotional distress," said Alexander Hanff, a Privacy International advisor.

The law firm made a raft of personal information such as email correspondence, scans of letters and possibly credit card information available

Privacy International claimed the breach could have been avoided with better security measures. “It would seem that this data breach was purely down to poor server administration and a lack of suitable data protection and security technologies.”

The privacy group said it had briefed the Information Commissioner's Office and is preparing a complaint.

Although it has yet to initiate a formal investigation, the Information Commissioner's Office told PC Pro it was aware of the case and would be looking into the situation.

“The ICO takes all breaches of the Data Protection Act very seriously and any organisation processing personal data must ensure that it is kept safe and secure,” the watchdog said in a statement. “The ICO will be contacting ACS:Law to establish further facts of the case and to identify what action, if any, needs to be taken.”

The ACS:Law website was down at the time of writing and the company could not be reached for comment.

Experts say that anyone who has had financial dealings with ACS:Law, such as downloaders who have settled out of court over copyright infringement cases, should be extra vigilant over their bank accounts following the breach.

“The law firm made a raft of personal information such as email correspondence, scans of letters and possibly credit card information available to those who looked a little bit harder than usual,” said ThinkBroadband.com specialist Andrew Ferguson.

“This information is now out on the internet, both on websites and via torrent tracking sites,” he said. “Some broadband providers are informing customers that their personal information had been previously passed to ACS:Law and may now have been leaked.”

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User comments

I HOPE

that some day that firm would be brought to justice themselves, since they can afford themselves everything, have (probably) £100,000 salaries, while the average population lives on around £24,000. they can say what they want but they can go to hell and someday someone will show them the right way up something very nasty and then they will stop thinking in their tiny little world of perfection that perhaps they were egoists and dumb bottoms for their actions. tell me please how much on average a singer or movie director makes, and what kind of houses do they live in. super expensive house, with swimming pools, and lots of space, yes, well my friends not all of us are so fortunate, not all of us can afford to do nothing for a year, and still be in good financial state. not all of us have a yacht, a Bentley and a personal driver. most of us are "normal", hard working people, who just want to enjoy life as it is. but you (ACS:Law) have to spoil it by pretending that you are better than us, that you have the right, just because you have money to do it, and this....rant, rant, rant... goes on and on

By mobilegnet on 27 Sep 2010

Nasty People

The media industry is being dragged, kicking and screaming toward the modern age of proper multi media - Open publishing access,(Films, music and books), fair prices and accesability (multiplatform).

They stand to loose a lot.

Movie stars being paid $30 million a film, musicians and authors paid peanuts per CD or book while they rake it in.

times Warner control over 90% of the book and film marlet in the U.S.

If you are not a cute band, or an author likely to make more than 10,000 book sales, forget it.

Sony and Time Warner control over 90% of the world music...

Get the picture? These people run most of our poular arts and culture.

This monopoly must be broken.

ACS Law is just the devils greedy dog.

By Kevin000 on 27 Sep 2010

Considering my parents received such a letter I'd really like to know if these people are legally culpable for this loss.

By bubbles16 on 28 Sep 2010

Perhaps all the people on the lists should send ACS:Law a letter demanding an out of court settlement for the infringement of their data protection rights.

See how they like it.

By omnisvalidus on 28 Sep 2010

A fair days pay for a fair days pay

If a performer wishes to earn some money then why do they think they can turn up for (a few hours in a studio in the case of a singer) or a few weeks for an movie actor and then get paid royalties every time their work is aired for the rest of their life (and beyond in some cases). If i turned up for one week at my employers, designed a fantastic product and then said "That's it for me, I'll live on the proceeds of the sales for the rest of my life", the employer would say "It's our product, not yours, so here's your notice; goodbye" Why shouldn't a performer earn money by actually appearing in the flesh and performing like the rest of us?

By BornOnTheCusp on 28 Sep 2010

Payback

This news continues to highlight how organisations are not protecting theirs and their customers' information effectively. Whilst Mr Crossley to a certain extent had it coming, the thousands of innocent users, some of whom have already been forced to pay fines, are now further at risk. I have written a blog on the issue here: bit.ly/bzWweH

By Juliette_msc on 30 Sep 2010

Payback

This news continues to highlight how organisations are not protecting theirs and their customers' information effectively. Whilst Mr Crossley to a certain extent had it coming, the thousands of innocent users, some of whom have already been forced to pay fines, are now further at risk. I have written a blog on the issue here: bit.ly/bzWweH

By Juliette_msc on 30 Sep 2010

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