ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s data watchdog said on Friday it had slapped a 150,000-euro fine on the finance ministry for failing to prevent the massive theft of financial data of almost its entire population.
The incident highlights the risks inherent in Greece’s drive to crack down on rampant tax evasion by digitizing tax administration.
The country’s bureaucratic and inefficient tax collection system is one of the reasons it slid into a debt crisis. Modernizing it is a key element of its 240-billion-euro EU/IMF bailout.
The Hellenic Data Protection Authority said the General Secretariat for Information Systems (GSIS), the public sector’s biggest data centre which falls under the finance ministry, was guilty of breach of duty.
A 35-year-old computer programmer has been accused of hacking into finance ministry servers last year and stealing the personal data of roughly two thirds of the country’s 11 million population.
The programmer, who was arrested last November and is awaiting trial, is suspected of attempting to sell 9 million files containing identification card data, addresses, tax ID numbers and licence plate numbers.
“Despite the volume of data it handles and how crucial it is, GSIS does still not have... the necessary safety measures to prevent unauthorized access and dissemination of the data,” the watchdog said.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by David Cowell