Serious flaw allowed security bypass on Italian visa site

A serious flaw in an online form left personal data of applicants for Italian visas exposed – a flaw discovered by chance after a user was trying to retrieve a saved application.

VFS Global, which provides visa services for governments around the world, produced an online form that used sequential reference numbers.

As two Russians living in the UK discovered when using the site to apply for holiday visas, they could enter another person's reference number and retrieve data. Details they were able to read included name, place of birth, nationality, sex, date of birth, marital status and other information including passport number.

“I could hardly believe it,” Dmitry Bagrov, managing director of DataArt UK, told the Guardian. He said the flaw was “beyond stupid”, accusing VFS Global of complacency and contempt for its customers.

Alexey Utkin, head of financial practice at DataArt UK, said: “They simply didn't put in any protection.”

VFS Global said the page that Bagrov and Utkin were complaining about was a beta release. As it was a beta release, a new release was scheduled for the next day. 

It reiterated its commitment to data security and said its systems are subject to “stringent external independent audits on a periodic basis”.