UK proposes new powers for comms regulator to legally unleash avenging hordes on security-breached telcos

Suffered 'loss or damage' as a customer? Get Ofcom's permission and sue away


Britain's Telecommunications Security Bill will allow anyone to sue their telco if they suffer "loss or damage" as a result of a system breach – but only if they get Ofcom's permission.

The far-ranging proposal is in the new bill, which was introduced to Parliament back in November amid lots of government boasts of a crackdown on Huawei and other Chinese telco equipment makers.

Yet buried in the details away from the China-bashing stuff is a potentially heavy stick to be wielded by telco regulator Ofcom, pitting baying crowds against telecoms operators. Currently, these operators face a maximum fine of £2m (enforced by Ofcom itself) for failing to adequately secure their networks (PDF). The new situation opens telcos up to civil litigation.

Clause 8 of the bill [PDF] would allow anyone who suffered "loss or damage" as a result of a security breach by a "provider of a public electronic communications network" to sue that operator. The legal language means the barrier to starting a lawsuit here is noticeably low.

With mobile network operators having millions of consumers on their books, it's not hard to imagine an ambulance-chasing law firm cooking up a Safari Workaround-style sueball to start pursuing telcos for billions of pounds in damages – and then there's the wrath of biz customers.

The liability itself stretches "not just [to] your customers (in respect of whom you may be able to limit your liability contractually for the impact of a breach, since that is not excluded by the current draft)," blogged tech lawyer Neil Brown of decoded:legal, who spoke to The Register for this article. "Every. Person. Who. May. Be. Affected."

It's not just direct customers affected by a breach who could be sued but anyone downstream that could plausibly say they were affected by a system breach. Brown continued in his blog post: "You get compromised, and an attacker uses that compromise to pivot onto another network/service, and so on and so on? It looks like the initial point of compromise could, if they have breached any of their duties relating to security, be liable to everyone downstream who has been affected."

We have asked Ofcom for comment on this potential new power for it to wield but the regulator declined to comment, as did MobileUK, the trade association for mobile network operators. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022