A cybersecurity breach has left thousands of property buyers facing uncertainty about pending house moves.
Leicestershire-based Premier Property Lawyers (PPL) said a “security incident” in early November had left some of its IT systems inaccessible. This led to the finalising of property purchases being held up and left many PPL customers complaining about a lack of communication and being unable to contact the firm.
Data breach leads to massive disruption
Many PPL clients had their belongings loaded onto removals vans when the problems hit and subsequently had to find alternative solutions. In some cases, people have been able to move in with relatives. But, there have also been reports of people being left homeless, losing the opportunity to buy their dream homes, and house-buying chains collapsing entirely because of the problems.
One buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “I just don’t know any information at all and it’s causing massive repercussions.
“The house I’m buying is empty. I have even enquired about renting it until it is all sorted out. Renting my own house… it’s a joke.”
Exact nature of data breach remains unknown
PPL immediately hired cybersecurity specialists to look into the incident. The data breach has also been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the police.
An ICO spokesperson said: “People have the right to expect that organisations will handle their personal information securely and responsibly.
“The Move Factory Holdings Limited [the 100% shareholder of Premier Property Lawyers and other related brands] has made us aware of an incident and we are making enquiries.”
At the time of writing, PPL hadn’t disclosed the exact nature of the breach. However, many clients were still waiting for updates and waiting to complete their move weeks after the incident was first reported.
A spokesperson for PPL, a subsidiary of My Home Move, said: “We are working with our third-party cyber specialists to restore systems, find ways to support our clients’ property transactions and undertake a thorough investigation to gain a fuller understanding of the incident.
“The current issues relate to the temporary inability to access some of our IT systems, which has regrettably prevented the completion of some transactions.
“We are working hard to find further solutions and provide all the support we can to our clients and partners at this difficult time.”
Following the incident, a further statement from The Simplify Group, which owns PPL and My Home Move, said: “We would stress that we are very conscious of the responsibility we have to our clients and we continue to invest in security measures to mitigate the growing range of risks faced by businesses.
“Our teams have worked non-stop with third party experts to contain the incident, get our systems operational and minimise the disruption for home movers.
“We can assure you that all money held by us is safe and secure and is held in an entirely separate system, with multiple protections, unaffected by the incident.”
The company also assured clients that no personal data had been compromised.
Leicestershire Police said they had “received a report of a security incident and officers are working with the victim to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.”