Genetic testing firm 23andMe investigated over hack

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Imran Rahman Jones
  • Role, Technology journalist

Data watchdogs in the UK and Canada will investigate genetic testing company 23andMe following a data breach in October 2023.

Hackers gained access to the personal information of 6.9 million people, which in some cases included family trees, birth years and geographic locations, using customers’ old passwords.

One of the questions the joint working group will investigate is whether adequate safeguards have been put in place to protect this data.

“We intend to cooperate with the reasonable requests of these regulators,” 23andMe said in a statement.

The data stolen in October did not include DNA records.

23andMe is a giant in the growing ancestry tracing industry, offering DNA-based genetic testing with ancestry breakdown and personalized health information.

The company was not hacked itself, but rather criminals logged into approximately 14,000 individual accounts, or 0.1% of customers, using email and password information previously revealed in other hacks.

The criminals downloaded not only the data from these accounts, but also the private information of all other users they had links to through the website’s family trees.

At the time, 23andMe said it had notified affected customers and asked them to change their passwords and update their account security.

According to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), data stored by 23andMe “may reveal information about an individual and their family members, including their health, ethnicity and biological relationships.” .

This means that it is “essential” that the public trusts the service.

The joint investigation by data watchdogs will examine the scale of the hack and the potential harm caused to users, as well as whether adequate safeguards were in place.

It will also examine how 23andMe reported the breach and whether the company followed proper procedures in the UK and Canada.

“In the wrong hands, an individual’s genetic information could be misused for surveillance or discrimination,” said Canadian Privacy Commissioner Philippe Dufresene.

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Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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