Bupa has been fined more than £100,000 by the information commissioner’s office (ICO) after it was discovered an employee tried to sell customer information on the dark web.

The unnamed employee was able to obtain the personal information of 547,000 Bupa Global health insurance customers between 6 January and 11 March 2017.

The information was accessed through the company’s customer relationship management system, known as SWAN, which holds records relating to 1.5 million people.

The employee then sent the sensitive information to his personal email account via bulk data reports.

This data, which included names, dates of birth, email addresses and nationality, was later offered for sale on the dark web.

No medical or financial information was taken, however, and there is no evidence to suggest the stolen data was used to carry out fraudulent activities.

Bupa was alerted to the breach on 16 June 2017 by an external partner who saw the customer data was being sold.

As a result, the employee was dismissed and Sussex Police has issued a warrant for his arrest.

The ICO levied an £175,000 fine after 198 complaints were made to the insurer and to the ICO.

The ICO’s investigation found that, at the time, Bupa did not routinely monitor SWAN’s activity. It was unaware of a defect in the system and was unable to detect unusual activity, such as bulk extractions of data.

Steve Eckersley, ICO director of investigations, said: “Bupa failed to recognise that people’s personal data was at risk and failed to take reasonable steps to secure it.

“Our investigation found material inadequacies in the way Bupa safeguarded personal data. The inadequacies were systemic and appear to have gone unchecked for a long time. On top of that, the ICO’s investigation found no satisfactory explanation for them.”

Due to the timing of the case, the incident was dealt with under the provisions and maximum penalties of the Data Protection Act 1998, and not the general data protection regulation (GDPR) and 2018 Act which replaced it in May this year.

A spokesperson for Bupa Global said: “We accept this decision by the ICO and have cooperated fully with its investigation.

“We take our responsibility for protecting customer information very seriously. We have since introduced additional security measures to help prevent the recurrence of such an incident, reinforced our internal controls and increased our customer checks.”

Bupa also contacted all affected customers and has set up a dedicated helpline for anyone concerned.