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Optus cyber attack sparks national privacy overhaul push

After hackers targeted Optus in a massive cyber attack, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese plans to toughen privacy rules to force companies to notify banks faster when they experience cyber attacks

user iconReporter
Tue, 27 Sep 2022
Optus cyber attack sparks national privacy overhaul push
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In an unprecedented attack on Australia's second-largest telecom firm, the Prime Minister called the incident "a huge wake-up call" for the corporate sector, saying there were some state actors and criminal groups who wanted to access people's data.

According to Reuters, the attacker's IP address, or unique identifier of a computer, appeared to move between countries in Europe, according to Optus, but the telco declined to detail how the security was breached.

Last week, Optus, owned by Singapore Telecoms, disclosed that home addresses, drivers' licences and passport numbers of up to 10 million customers, or about 40 per cent of the population, were compromised in one of Australia's biggest data breaches.


"We want to make sure ... that we change some of the privacy provisions there so that if people are caught up like this, the banks can be let know, so that they can protect their customers as well," the Prime Minister told station 4BC in an interview.

Cyber Security Minister Clare O'Neil has blamed Optus as being responsible for the breach, noting such lapses in other jurisdictions would be met with fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars, an apparent reference to European laws that penalise companies 4 per cent of global revenue for privacy breaches.

"One significant question is whether the cyber security requirements that we place on large telecommunications providers in this country are fit for purpose," O'Neil told parliament.

Optus is set to offer the most affected customers free credit monitoring and identity protection with credit agency Equifax for a year, but did not say how many customers the offer applies to.

The telco confirmed that it alerted all customers whose driver's licences or passport numbers were stolen in an emailed statement and added that payment details and account passwords were not compromised.

To strengthen the network infrastructure of firms and homes, the Federal government has been looking to beef up cyber defences and pledged in 2020 to spend AU$1.66 billion ($1.1 billion) over the decade.

[Related: AFP investigating Optus $1.5m ransom threat]

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