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Telco Penalized €9 Million for Obscuring Cyberattack Impact from Customers

 

The Greek data protection authority imposed a fine on COSMOTE of 5,850,000 EUR ($6.55 million) and OTE was fined 3,250,000 EUR ($3.65 million) for exposing sensitive customer data due to a cyberattack. 

COSMOTE violated at least eight articles of the GDPR, according to the agency, including its responsibility to inform impacted customers of the full consequences of the incident. 

COSMOTE and OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organization) are both parts of the OTE Group, Greece's largest technological business, which provides fixed and mobile telephony, broadband, and network communication services. 

COSMOTE launched an internal investigation in 2020 and discovered that a hacker utilized LinkedIn to social engineer one of its employees and then used brute-forcing techniques to obtain the target's account credentials. According to the investigation's results, the attacker repeatedly utilized a Lithuanian IP address to access one of OTE's servers. On five consecutive occasions, the threat actor used the account credentials to extract database files and the data that was stolen and was 48GB in size. 

COSMOTE keeps call details on its servers for 90 days for service quality assurance and further 12 months for statistical analysis that aids in targeted service enhancement. The anonymization process wasn't done effectively, and the data holding periods weren't fully adhered to, as the data protection authority investigation discovered. 

The compromised server included sensitive subscriber information and call data for the dates September 1, 2020, to September 5, 2020. 

The following are some of the details that have been revealed: 
• Rough positional data of 4,792,869 unique COSMOTE subscribers. 
• Age, gender, plan, and ARPU of 4,239,213 unique COSMOTE subscribers. 
• MSISDN/CLI of 6,939,656 users of other telecommunication providers who communicated with customers of COSMOTE. 
• MSISDN, IMEI, IMSI, and connected tower position for 281,403 roaming subscribers of COSMOTE. 

In some circumstances, the above data could be utilised for highly targeted social engineering, phishing, and even extortion. Nonetheless, for targeted subscribers who may be high-interest personalities, the consequences of the hacking attack could be substantial.