A consultancy specialising in data protection issues has sharply criticised the Simplify Group for its ongoing lack of communications over its data breach.
Simplify was the victim of a cyber attack in early November, which forced it to take down its systems. The incident has affected Premier Property Lawyers, JS Law, DC Law and Advantage Property Lawyers, with many transactions stalled, and customers are still waiting to hear if their data was put at risk.
Data breach law firm Hayes Connor says it’s been contacted by a number of people who are worried about the impact this could have on them and the firm is calling for Simplify to provide an update, saying customers have been met with a ‘wall of silence’ so far.
“Buying or selling a home is one of the most stressful times for anyone at the best of times, so to be facing extra worry is something none of these people want – especially just before Christmas” says Richard Forrest, legal director at Hayes Connor.
“To make matters worse we are still unclear exactly what has happened and what data has been breached. Home moves involve a huge amount of personal data which can be very valuable to the wrong sort of people so Simplify have a duty to all of their customers to let people know what has happened, why and how exactly they have been affected, and to do so immediately.
“Any further delay will just add to the worry people are already suffering just when they least need that extra stress.”
Hayes Connor is dealing with the aftermath of an increasing number of cyber-attacks involving data breaches, where data is often ending up on the dark web.
“Unfortunately, cyber attacks like the one experienced by Simplify are increasing, as cyber criminals become ever more sophisticated. Criminals can make a lot of money selling data on the dark web, so to find out your data has been put at risk is incredibly stressful” adds Forrest.
“Businesses need to do more to keep their customers’ data safe, but also to respond quickly when cyber attacks happen. The last thing worried people need is a wall of silence.”
The police have been called in to investigate the Simplify hack but no public comment has been made to confirm the cause, damage or timescale for work to resume as normal.
A Conservative MP has raised the possibility of a formal investigation into the incident, and compensation to consumers hit by the problem.
Bob Blackman - a member of the House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee - has told The Express newspaper: “Whilst [Simplify] are working around the clock to restore their systems, we have heard numerous stories of home buyers not being able to complete or exchange.
“Indeed we have heard several stories of people having to sleep in their cars as they had to leave their old house and had not been able to complete on their new home. I would certainly welcome an investigation by [the] committee to investigate how this happened and what steps are been taken to prevent such an incident from happening again. Whilst it remains down to [Simplify] how they handle the situation, I would welcome any efforts to offer some sort of compensation.”
Simplify itself continues to be almost completely silent on the issue, merely giving an occasional website update.
The latest message says: “An ever-growing proportion of our conveyancing colleagues are back up and running on core systems and progressing transactions. We continue to prioritise the most urgent cases, and are working with clients to help them move forward towards exchange and completion We very much regret any uncertainty and disruption that our clients and others may have experienced. Our team, supported by external experts, are working non-stop to get the remainder of our systems safely back up and running, with progress being made every day.
"For any queries or an update on your case please contact your conveyancer or call: Premier Property Lawyers on 0345 234 0240 or DC Law on 01704 511 300 or JS Law on 01858 378 041.”