Formjacking and mega-fines - what you need to know.

Understanding The Top 10 OWASP Threat Landscape

80% of web applications contain at least one security bug, with an average of 45 vulnerabilities per application.

OWASP, an international non-profit organization dedicated to web application security, have a top 10 vulnerability list.

An SQL injection, malware code injected into a database to copy, corrupt, re-purpose data use, or destroy data, is still the number one risk for an enterprise.

Criminals Follow the Money

For the last seven and a half years, the Uleska team has seen a common theme – criminals follow the money. Since consumers are buying and selling online, then the criminals have naturally moved online too.

In 2017, at Digital DNA, there was a panel giving cyber security tips for local businesses – a pro bono consultancy workshop on how to best protect their digital assets from threat actors.

What made the Uleska team concerned was how many other local businesses had been through a damaging experience and how many more will.

After the panel, several business owners said, they too, had been the victims of hacks/breaches and what should they do? The correct response is to contact the ICO.


Also remember, this panel was one year before the legislation would penalise companies for data breaches and hacks – GDPR.

We live in different times now, post GDPR and we are already seeing the size of fines imposed on companies by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) skyrocket – it is more like a hockey stick increase.

Let’s take one example – British Airways – their data breach took place last summer and was a formjacking compromise – malicious code was injected into a form on their website to scrape user’s details, including credit card numbers.


The ICO has just levied a fine of BA of £183m – Yes, you read that correctly, one hundred and eighty-three million pounds. The previous maximum fine in the UK under the Data Protection Act (1998) was a more modest £500k.

One interesting thing to point out was that the BA hack was a supply-chain hack – one of their suppliers was compromised, not BA directly, but the ICO ruled that BA was responsible for end-user data and not the third party.

“Death and taxes” are only certainties in life? Add to that “Data breaches and ICO fines” in this post-GDPR world.

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.”

A Strong Message to all Data Controllers

Therefore, the industry has seen a change – the fine imposed was for a lack of preparation, rather than lack of response to an attack. The ICO did not impose the maximum fine at their disposal, BA was charged one and a half per cent of their global annual turnover for the year ending 31 December 2018.

Diane Yarrow, partner and commercial solicitor at award-winning law firm Gardner Leader solicitors commented:

The penalty is substantial. There are various factors considered when setting the level of the fine which includes; the number of people affected and the level of damage suffered, the negligent character of the infringement, degree of responsibility of the controller and the categories of personal data affected by the infringement amongst other things.

Evidently, given the vast number of customers affected and the details compromised, the ICO deemed it fit to order a substantial penalty sending a strong message to all data controllers.”

Your Supply Chain – “their risk is your risk”

In recent years we have seen multiple talks from academics about the threat to businesses from their own supply chains, a topic to be discussed in greater detail in a future blog post.

How can you be sure of the uniqueness of your code? Most code is not custom code (built by your own team), it comes from code libraries.

This is where the vulnerabilities are introduced. This is how the BA hack happened in 2018. The hacker’s strategy was to target the smaller supplier (code library), a software component to get to the actual target (BA).

The website was hacked and replaced with something that collected the personal and financial information of the user.

Uleska: your risk comfort blanket

Wrapping up, Uleska is here to help your business with your application security scalability challenge.

Uleska can remove the repetitive, manual configuration for each scan and automate this.

By scanning code to match your software deployment schedule; testing more frequently removing more of the vulnerabilities than waiting until the end of your SDLC, you can bolster your organisation’s security scope. Uleska can recommend fixes for your development teams, on-site, offshore or suppliers.

Uleska will also give you your value at risk – how much each vulnerability will cost you, in the event of a data breach, based on information from the FAIR Institute, in conjunction with one of the big four.

Sign up for a copy of our upcoming practical guide on the Top 10 DevSecOps Challenges.

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