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Dutch Data Protection Authority Fines Booking.com Over Incident Notification

The Dutch Data Protection Authority announced on Wednesday that it has issued a fine of €475,000 (roughly $550,000) to online travel agency Booking.com for failing to report a data security incident within the required timeframe.

According to the privacy watchdog, the incident took place in December 2018 and it involved cybercriminals using voice phishing (vishing) and social engineering to trick the employees of 40 hotels in the United Arab Emirates into handing over their credentials for their Booking.com accounts.

The cybercrooks then used that access to obtain information on more than 4,000 individuals who had booked a hotel through Booking.com. They also managed to access payment card information belonging to nearly 300 people and attempted to phish the card information of others by posing as Booking.com employees over the phone or email.

The Dutch agency fined Booking.com because the company is based in the Netherlands. The travel company learned about the data breach on January 13, 2019, but only notified the Data Protection Authority on February 7 — the incident should have been reported within 72 hours. Impacted customers were notified by Booking.com on February 4.

Contacted by SecurityWeek, Booking.com highlighted that the fine is related to the late notification and is not connected to the company’s security practices or its handling of the incident.

“A small number of hotels inadvertently provided their Booking.com account login details to online scammers, but there was no compromise of the code or databases that power the Booking.com platform. After receiving the first reports of suspicious activity, we began working to understand and resolve the issue, but unfortunately didn’t get the matter escalated as fast as we would have liked internally,” the company said in an emailed statement.

It added, “We have since taken additional steps to improve awareness and education amongst our partners and employees on important privacy measures and general security processes, while also working to further optimize the speed and efficiency of our internal reporting channels. The protection and security of personal data is and will remain a top priority at Booking.com.”

Related: Airlines That Manage Booking Systems Themselves Expose Customer Data

Related: Pentagon Reveals Cyber Breach of Travel Records

Related: Orbitz Data Breach Impacts 880,000 Payment Cards

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.