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University Of Westminster Data Breach Compensation Claims Guide

We have created this guide to provide you with information on the justifications behind data breach claims against the University of Westminster.

Whether you attend university currently, are an alumnus or member of staff, the university would likely have decided why and how some of your personal data would be collected, stored or processed. As such, they would be considered a data controller, and should ensure they comply with personal data protection legislation.

If a university causes a data breach, data protection law could allow you to make a compensation claim. This could compensate you for financial and emotional harm caused by the breach of data protection.

data breach claims against the University Of Westminster

In the sections below, we discuss what could constitute a data breach at the University of Westminster and how such a breach could happen. Additionally, we look at what steps the university could take to ensure they comply with data protection legislation. We also explain how to go about reporting data breaches if you believe you have been affected by a university data breach.

In addition to this, we explore what two kinds of compensation you could claim and illustrate how much compensation could be recovered for different forms of damage. To contact our team about your case, or to obtain a free, no-obligation eligibility check, please call our freephone helpline on 0800 073 8804.

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A Guide On Data Breach Claims Against The University Of Westminster

Whether a breach was due to malicious activities such as hacking, ransomware, spyware or a virus, or due to human error or negligence, it could have a number of unpleasant consequences. This guide explains what you may need to know about making a data breach compensation claim against a university if you suffer financial or psychological harm because of a breach.

Every organisation that processes, stores and collects information in the UK should abide by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is enshrined into UK law in the form of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018). Within this data protection legislation is the right of a data subject to claim compensation for specific harm caused to them by a breach.

Information security compliance is vital to protecting the privacy of personal data, and so universities should take it very seriously indeed. However, sometimes things go wrong, and when they do, a university should act to rectify any breach of personal data that causes you mental or financial harm.

In the sections below, we explain more about the laws that protect your personal data and offer insight into claiming compensation.

What Is A Data Protection Breach At The University Of Westminster?

Before we explore what could constitute a data breach by the University of Westminster, we should clarify what personal data actually is. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which enforces data protection law in the UK, describes personal data as information that could identify a living person, either on its own or alongside other information.

Examples of personal information could include:

  • Someone’s name
  • Their address, email address or IP address
  • Medical information/biometric information
  • Financial information

These are some examples of personal data that could be held by a university in order for them to provide you with services as a student, member of staff or alumni.

What Is A University Data Breach?

The ICO defines a data breach as a breach of security that affects the confidentiality, availability or integrity of personal information. A security occurrence that breaches personal data could relate to cybersecurity, network security, computer security or even the security of paper records, such as data held in filing cabinets and notebooks.

A personal data breach occurs when data is:

  • Lost
  • Disclosed without authorisation
  • Accessed without authorisation
  • Destroyed
  • Altered

How Could A Breach Of My Personal Data Happen?

If you’re looking for information on making data breach claims against the University of Westminster, you may have evidence that you’ve been the victim of a personal data breach. A university data breach could involve an error by a member of staff, an act of negligence or a malicious act. Examples of causes of a data breach could include:

  • A virus
  • Staff members sending personal information to an unauthorised recipient
  • A hacking
  • Malware, ransomware, spyware, a bot or phishing attacks
  • A Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS)
  • Computer equipment theft
  • Failure to lock filing cabinets with personal data inside
  • Negligence in securing network security or computer security by installing the proper protection, such as a firewall

If you can prove you’ve suffered mentally or financially because of a data breach by the University of Westminster, you could take action. Moreover, taking action may also lead to the data controller or processor updating and reviewing the personal data protection policy to ensure such a breach doesn’t happen again. This could potentially save another person from the experience you have had.

University GDPR Breaches And Policies

GDPR is a European law that came into force in 2018. It is arguably the most stringent and wide-reaching information security and privacy law worldwide. The UK enacted it into law via the Data Protection Act 2018. Within GDPR are 7 principles that should be part of any organisation’s approach to the processing of personal data. They include:

  1. Storage limitation
  2. Purpose limitation
  3. Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
  4. Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  5. Data minimisation
  6. Accuracy
  7. Accountability

What Happens If There Is A University GDPR Breach?

If a university breaches GDPR and this results in a data breach, the ICO could have the power to take action against the university. They could investigate the breach, and the university could face penalties such as fines. Fines can be tens of millions of pounds.

Additionally, GDPR allows victims of data breaches to claim compensation for material or non-material damage it causes.

If you would like our advice about what could justify data breach claims against the University of Westminster, why not ask for a free assessment of your case today? Alternatively, keep reading. 

Examples Of UK University Data Protection Breaches

If you think that a lack of information security compliance would be a rare occurrence in universities, you may be surprised to read about these examples of university data breaches.

University of Greenwich Data Breach

The University of Greenwich received a fine of £120,000 from the ICO in 2018, for an infringement of the Data Protection Act 1998. This was prior to GDPR coming into force.

The breach was due to a microsite for a training conference not being taken down or secured afterwards. A number of attackers used the site to access the university’s systems. Consequently, 19,500 people’s contact details and around 3,500 records containing sensitive data were accessed.

The Blackbaud Hack

The Blackbaud hack occurred in 2020. Blackbaud, a cloud computing provider servicing several UK universities, fell victim to a ransomware attack. The company paid an undisclosed sum to the attacker and was confident that the stolen data had been destroyed. However, the data of staff, students and alumni at universities were affected, as well as other organisations and charities.


Accidental University Data Breach

Not every data breach that has affected a university occurred as a result of a cyberattack. For example, in 2017, at the University of East Anglia, a staff member accidentally sent a spreadsheet containing details of students’ personal issues, bereavements and health problems to nearly 300 people. The university paid out more than £140,000 in compensation.


Rates Of Breaches In Data Security At Universities

In this part of our article on data breach claims against the University of Westminster, we have included some research. 

According to the ICO’s report, between 01/01/2021 and 31/03/2021, educational establishments reported 342 data breaches. The breakdown of causes includes:

  • 22 phishing incidents
  • 34 ransomware attacks
  • 6 incidents of unauthorised access
  • 89 incidents where data was emailed to the wrong recipient
  • 18 incidents where paperwork was lost, stolen or left in an insecure location

According to a Redscan report, more than half of universities that responded to a Freedom of Information request had reported a data breach to the ICO within the space of 12 months. The average, according to the reports, was 2 reports per university.


Criminal Breaches In Cybersecurity

One of the reasons it is essential for universities to ensure they have a robust system of data protection in place when it comes to the management of personal data is that they could be targeted by cybercriminals. For example, according to the National Cyber Security Centre, some educational establishments conducting coronavirus research were the target of Russian Intelligence cyber attacks.

Other criminal acts that could breach the personal data of university staff, alumni and students include:

  • Phishing attacks
  • Ransomware, spyware and malware attacks
  • Theft of information
  • DDoS attacks

If you have had your personal data breached because of a criminal act and you endured financial loss or psychiatric damage, you could make a claim. You may be unsure as to what data breach claims against the University of Westminster could potentially involve so please call our advisors for more information.

Types Of Compensation Awarded For Breaches Of Data Protection

When we look at the compensation you could claim for a breach of data protection, we should look at both the financial impact and the psychological impact such a breach could have.

Financial Harm

If a data breach leads to an unauthorised person obtaining your bank details, or other financial information, they could steal from you. They could also make purchases or apply for finance in your name. This could cost you money.

Psychological Harm

If your personal information has been accessed, you may suffer similar psychological damage to a victim of a burglary. Anxiety, stress and depression could all result from a data breach.

Data Breach Claims Against The University Of Westminster For Psychological Harm

One of the reasons it is possible for a person to claim psychological damage because of a data breach is that a legal precedent was set in a case from 2015. In Vidal-Hall and others v Google Inc [2015] the Court of Appeal sought to address how compensation for data breach cases could be assessed.

The Court held that personal injury awards involving psychological and psychiatric injuries could be considered for data breach compensation claims. This should occur if the victim can prove they suffered mental harm because of the breach and can be applied whether the claimant had also suffered financial loss or not. Before this case, it was not possible to claim for psychological damage alone.

Calculating Claims For Data Protection Breaches At Universities

Calculating compensation for data protection breach claims involves looking at the damage that the breach causes. When it comes to claiming compensation for financial loss, documents such as bank statements and credit card bills could be used as evidence.

However, proving non-pecuniary damages involves acquiring a medical report. If you intend to claim for psychological injuries, you would need to see an independent medical expert. This expert would, upon assessing your condition, write a medical report. It could be used to evidence the level of psychological injury you’ve suffered.

It could also give details on your prognosis. Solicitors and courts could use the information within the report alongside a publication, the Judicial College Guidelines, to arrive at an appropriate value for such damage. Additionally, the report could be used to prove your condition was caused or worsened by the data breach.

Below, you will find a compensation table with figures from the Judicial College Guidelines that relate to different levels of psychological injury. These could give you a rough idea of how much compensation could be appropriate.

Type of injury Severity Level JCG Payout Bracket
Psychological Injury Cases (General) Severe £51,460 to £108,620
PTSD Severe £56,180 to £94,470
Psychological Injury Cases (General) Moderately severe £17,900 to £51,460
PTSD Moderately severe £21,730 to £56,180
Psychological Injury Cases (General) Moderate £5,500 to £17,900
PTSD Moderate £7,680 to £21,730
Psychological Injury Cases (General) Less severe Up to £5,500
PTSD Less severe Up to £7,680

If you’d like to find out what the value of your condition could be for free, get in touch with our advisors. Furthermore, if you would like advice about how solicitors could support valid data breach claims against the University of Westminster, call or read on. 

Getting The Right Solicitor For Your Case

If a university data breach has led to you suffering psychological or financial harm, making a claim could be something to consider. There is no legal requirement for you to use a data breach lawyer to do so. However, many claimants prefer to have legal assistance when making such claims.

How To Report A Data Breach

The ICO advises victims of data breaches to attempt to resolve such issues with the organisation directly if they can. Their advice is to write to the data protection officer or appropriate person to report the breach and ask them to investigate.

Should the organisation not respond in a satisfactory manner, then you could report the matter to the ICO within 3 months of the final communication from the university. The ICO may investigate, depending on the circumstances of the breach.

However, you do not have to report a breach to the ICO to take legal action against an organisation that breaches your data. If you have suffered mental harm or financial loss, you could seek the help of a data breach solicitor.

Why Use A Solicitor?

The benefits of using a data breach lawyer could include:

  • Not having the stress of collecting all the evidence and building your case alone.
  • Having an explanation of legal jargon whenever you need it.
  • Not having to negotiate a settlement or file court paperwork alone.

Why Use Legal Expert?

If you’re considering using a data breach lawyer for your claim, why not consider Legal Expert? Our advisors provide free, no-obligation claims advice over the telephone. In addition to this, we could also check your eligibility, free of charge. If we think you could have a valid claim, we could connect you with one of our data breach lawyers.

The lawyer could fight for compensation on your behalf. And because our lawyers work under No Win No Fee terms, you would have no solicitor fees to pay until your compensation comes through.

No Win No Fee Data Breach Claims Against The University Of Westminster

In this section of our guide to valid data breach claims against the University of Westminster, we consider how you could fund a data breach lawyer’s services on a No Win No Fee basis.

You might want to consider the option of using the services of a No Win No Fee solicitor. That’s because you wouldn’t have to pay any solicitor fees until your claim ends.

The way in which these agreements work is as follows:

  1. Firstly, your lawyer would send you the agreement. This document would contain details of the ‘success fee’ you’d pay them if your claim ends with you receiving compensation. It is a legally capped fee and is a small percentage.
  2. When you’ve signed and sent the agreement back, your lawyer would be able to begin working on your case. They would build a body of evidence and negotiate for compensation on your behalf.
  3. If the liable party disputed your claim, your lawyer could then file legal paperwork with the courts. They could support you through the court process.
  4. If your compensation payout comes through, your No Win No Fee lawyer would deduct the agreed success fee. You’d benefit from the balance.

What Happens If Data Breach Claims Against The University Of Westminster Don’t Bring Compensation?

No Win No Fee lawyers don’t take any fees if they don’t achieve a compensation payout for you. We have a guide if you’re interested in learning more about No Win No Fee claims. Alternatively, you could talk to our team; we’d be happy to answer your questions.

Discuss Your Case With Us

Can you prove you have a valid claim and would like our help? You can reach us in a number of ways:

Claims Resources

VPN Data Transfer Protection Advice: The ICO offers some insight into using a virtual private network when transferring data and discusses whether this could be a method of protecting such data.

General Guide To Data Protection For Organisations: Here, you can find guidance as to how organisations could work to protect the personal data they process.

Make A Data Breach Report: More details on reporting a breach of your personal data can be found here.

Making A Claim For The Psychological Effects Of A Data Breach: You can find out more about the emotional harm a data breach could cause and how to claim for it here.

Lost Data: If a university data breach has led to the loss of your personal data, this guide explains whether you could claim compensation.

Employee Data Breach Claims: If you’ve had your data breached by your employer, you may find this guide more relevant.

Other Useful Guides

Thank you for reading our guide that explores what valid data breach claims against the University Of Westminster potentially look like. 

Written by Jeffries

Edited by Victorine

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    • Patrick Mallon

      Patrick is a Grade A solicitor having qualified in 2005. He's an an expert in accident at work and public liability claims and is currently our head of the EL/PL department. Get in touch today for free to see how we can help you.

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