Ireland: Luas Data Breach: A Heavy Fail For Light Rail?

Last Updated: 28 January 2019
Article by Sarah Slevin and David Rodgers


Luas, and its operating company Transdev (“Luas”), were recently targeted in a cyber attack in which the personal data of over 3,000 users on the Luas website was compromised. As part of the attack content was removed from the Luas site and a message posted in lieu stating that the perpetrators had control of the site, demanding the sum of one Bitcoin (valued at €3,402 at the time) in ransom. Information security experts have since indicated that the breach was limited to the names and email addresses of those users who accessed the website to send messages to Luas through a standard webpage form. At the time of writing, a limited version of the Luas website has returned to operations, although there has been no indication of when the full site will be reinstated.

The Breach

Under Article 33 of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) there is an obligation to notify the relevant body (here being the Data Protection Commission (the “DPC”)) of a data breach unless that breach is “unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons”. Given that the only personal data processed by the Luas website was email addresses and names submitted to it (payment for any penalties took place through a third-party service provider), it is arguable that the associated risks were/are minimal. Notwithstanding this, Luas notified the DPC within 72 hours; it is often recommended that any entity which suffers a data breach liaise with the DPC irrespective of the notification requirement. The DPC has stated that they will publish guidelines on when notification is required in due course.

Remember, in addition to notifying the relevant supervisory authority, there may also be a duty, under Article 34 of the GDPR, to inform the affected data subjects when a breach occurs. The threshold for such notification is higher, however, being a “high risk” to the rights and freedoms of the data subjects as a result of the data breach.


As we know, Article 83(5) of the GDPR provides that a data controller may be liable for a fine of up to 4% of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is the higher, for more significant breaches of the GDPR. However, this particular breach may be more likely to be found to contravene Article 32 on security of personal data, in which case the maximum fine would be the higher of 2% of global turnover or €10 million.

The degree to which the target of a data breach complies with their obligations under the GDPR (or the Irish Data Protection Act 2018) will often dictate the level of penalty imposed, together with the nature, gravity and duration of the infringement, the categories of personal data affected, and any previous infringements by the data controller. Organisations should also be alive to the potential for claims by data subjects affected by a breach as the GDPR allows any person who has suffered material, or non-material, damage as a result of an infringement of the GDPR, the right to receive compensation from the data controller (Article 82(1)). These provisions have yet to be properly tested in court, yet organisations ought to be aware of the potential for the judiciary to impose heavy fines in the absence of any guidance to date.

Mitigating the Breach

Here, Luas took its website down in order to minimise and ascertain the extent of the attack. Additionally, the company posted a message on the website and to social media stating that they had contacted the DPC in relation to the breach and that they are revising their online security measures. In light of these mitigating actions, and the seemingly limited risks to data subjects’ personal data, actual loss, both to Luas and its customers, may be limited. However, the breach has demonstrated that a thorough review of all of Luas’ IT infrastructure and cyber-security systems needs to be undertaken by Luas urgently in order to avoid a more harmful data breach and more significant action by the DPC – something which the perpetrator may have been trying to demonstrate. Given the recent examples of how technology have disrupted infrastructure on a global scale – from drones at international airports to State-backed attempts to gain control of utility providers – the potentially catastrophic impact of a more severe breach cannot be overstated.

The Track Ahead

Despite having received a disproportionate level of media attention, the attack on the Luas website ranks on the lower end of the severity scale. While personal data is likely to have been accessed by third parties, such data appears to have been limited to the names and email addresses of a website user subset. This is a good example of the types of breaches which are becoming more common and are being faced by all types of businesses which process personal data daily.

It is often the perception that data breaches are only significant for large multinationals or companies operating in the online sphere, with the recent Facebook breaches being an example. However, the reality is that any business may be targeted. Given the risk of reputational damage due to a breach, prevention is better than cure when it comes to taking measures to safeguard personal data.

Furthermore, in order to comply with the requirements of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, it is necessary that businesses implement both technical and organisational measures to minimise the risk of such a breach together with ensuring that processes are developed and are adhered to in the event of a breach occurring. Ensuring compliance and minimising risk ought to be to the forefront of any entity which suffers a similar attack.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions