Mumsnet has reported itself to the information commissioner after a data breach resulted in users accidentally logging into the accounts of strangers.
A botched upgrade to the software the forum runs on meant that for three days, if two users tried to log in at the same time, there was the possibility that their accounts would be switched. Each user was able to post as the other, see their account details, and read private messages.
The company doesn’t know how many user accounts were affected, but says that over the three days the bug was live, from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday morning, about 4,000 users logged in. Of that, only 14 users have reported an issue.
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts apologised to users in a post, saying: “You’ve every right to expect your Mumsnet account to be secure and private. We are working urgently to discover exactly how this breach happened and to learn and improve our processes. We will also keep you informed about what is happening. We will of course be reporting this incident to the information commissioner.”
Mumsnet confirmed to the Guardian that it has now self-referred to the Information Commissioners Office, as it is legally required to do in the event of a data breach.
Roberts emphasised that passwords were not exposed in the breach, and reassured concerned users: “You do not need to do anything. We have reversed the change that caused the problem. We are investigating which accounts have been affected – we don’t think it’s many and we will contact you if we think it is yours.”
The site last had to report itself to the information commissioner in 2018, after a row about trans rights on the forum escalated when a former employee published screenshots of posts that contained the IP addresses of the user who wrote them. Despite the fact that the publication was accidental on the part of the ex-employee, Mumsnet treated it as a data breach, and passed the details on to the ICO.
More seriously, in 2014, the site discovered that an attacker was using a widespread bug known as “Heartbleed” to compromise an unknown number of its 1.5 million user accounts. Mumsnet reset user passwords in response to the attack.
Source: The Guardian