UK govt contractor leaks employee passport data

MPD FM, a facility management and security company providing services to various UK government departments, left an open instance that exposed employee passports, visas, and other sensitive data.

Sometimes, those who are meant to protect are left vulnerable themselves, as the latest findings from the Cybernews research team show. The now-closed Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), a file vault for digital data, left over 16,000 sensitive documents open to anyone with the means to scan the open web.

The team deduced that the exposed information belongs to MDP FM, formerly known as Manpower Direct. This London-based business provides facility management & security services to organizations such as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), HM Revenue & Customs, various UK boroughs and councils, British retailer WHSmith, and other organizations.

We have contacted MPD FM for comment but did not receive a reply before publishing this article.

The exposed files included a trove of severely sensitive information, exposing MDP FM’s employees. The leaked information includes:

  • Passports
  • VISAs
  • National IDs
  • Driving licenses
  • Birth certificates
  • Vetting reports
  • Right-to-work checks
  • Job contracts
  • Proof of address
  • Bank statements

According to the team, attackers could easily use the exposed information for identity theft. For example, malicious actors could create fake accounts impersonating victims and make unauthorized transactions. The data provides cybercrooks with the means to undertake illegal actions that could harm both employees and the company itself.

“Threat actors could use employee data to devise targeted emails or launch social engineering attacks,” researchers said. “Information about people’s private and professional lives allows scammers to coax victims into disclosing additional sensitive information or performing actions that compromise the organization’s security.”

Experts warn that even seemingly insignificant pieces of leaked personal information can be collated to have a devastating impact. Victims whose data has been leaked often don’t realize they’ve been compromised and therefore take no action to mitigate the outcome.

The team advised MPD FM, or anyone else dealing with a similar issue, to immediately restrict public access to the exposed instance and to retrospectively check access logs for any unauthorized connections. Whoever’s in control of the Amazon S3 bucket ought to secure sensitive files using server-side encryption.

Since attackers might have taken the data while the bucket was exposed without leaving any evidence of unauthorized access, administrators should monitor access logs for any potential intrusions.

“Consider implementing security best practices, including regular audits, automated security checks, and employee training,” researchers advised.

MPD FM boasts of being the UK's leading “facility management company.” Established in 2003, the company has expanded to house 500 staff. The company provides various guardian and facility management services throughout the United Kingdom.