DATA from Morrisons’ staff payroll system has been stolen and published on the internet, the Yorkshire-based supermarket chain revealed today.
The data theft, which was spotted by bosses yesterday, includes employees’ names, addresses and bank account details. It was sent on a disc to a newspaper and posted online, though Morrisons says it has since had the information taken off the website.
A statement released today said: “Initial investigations suggest that this theft was not the result of an external penetration of our systems.
“We can confirm there has been no loss of customer data and no colleague will be left financially disadvantaged.
“We have already informed our colleagues about the theft and we are helping them take the appropriate actions to safeguard their personal data.”
The news comes a day after the Bradford-based chain unveiled a radical price-slashing plan to protect its northern heartlands in a move which saw £650m wiped off its value.
It emerged that the Wm Morrison company saw its stores haemorrhage shoppers to Aldi and Lidl over Christmas when customers were lured away by the promise of cut-price lobster, free range turkey, quality champagne and award winning Christmas puddings.
In response to the theft of data, Morrisons said it was “working with the cyber crime authorities and the police to identify the source of the theft”.
It said chief executive Dalton Philips was leading the response and that the firm had “brought in experts to help colleagues and ensure they are not financially disadvantaged”.
A helpline has been set up and the company is “urgently reviewing” internal data security measures, the spokesman said.
The Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported today that the disc containing details of about 100,000 staff, from director level downwards, was sent anonymously to its office by a “concerned Morrisons shopper”.
A note sent to all Morrisons staff this morning said: “We are extremely sorry to inform you that there has been a theft of colleagues’ personal information, which was uploaded onto a website.
“As soon as we became aware of this last night we took immediate steps to ensure the data was removed from the website. It was closed down within hours of us being notified.
“The information included names, addresses and bank account details of colleagues. This affects colleagues from all levels of the organisation.
“Our immediate priority is the security of your financial information. We are currently working with Experian and the major banks to ensure that we provide full support and assistance to all affected colleagues. This will include support and advice around protection of your bank account.”
It added: “We are very sorry that this has happened. We will ensure that no colleague will be left financially disadvantaged as a result of this theft.”
A Facebook post for staff said: “The information included names, addresses and bank account details of colleagues. This affects colleagues from all levels of the organisation.
“We are taking this extremely seriously. Dalton Philips is leading the response.”
But one person commented on the site: “I haven’t been informed of this and shouldn’t have to read it on here.”
The criminal inquiry into the data theft from Bradford-based Morrisons is being led by West Yorkshire Police.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Wallen said: “We are aware of the situation and are supporting Morrisons and their investigation into these matters.”
It is the latest blow to Morrisons, a day after it announced that it had plunged into the red for the year to February 2, a year after reporting pre-tax profits of £879 million.
Earnings were wiped out amid declining sales and exceptional costs of £903 million from write-downs on the value of its stores and the planned sale of its poorly-performing children’s wear retailer Kiddicare.
Like-for-like sales fell 2.8% as Mr Philips pledged a fresh strategy to take on the threat from discounters Aldi and Lidl by slashing prices.
He said the grocery sector was facing the biggest structural shift since the advent of supermarkets in the 1950s.
Mr Philips said Morrisons had the most to lose as shoppers were now choosing to save by using the likes of Aldi and Lidl even if they were no longer struggling to make ends meet as the economy improved.
The store is to invest £1 billion over the next three years to improve value and competitiveness and will also launch a new loyalty card scheme.
It began rolling out an online grocery offering just eight weeks ago, many years later than rivals, and is also concentrating on increasing its smaller convenience stores while scaling back new supermarket plans - expecting not to build any after 2015/16.