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Friday, 29 January 2021 10:51

Australian Govt in top five industry sectors for data breaches

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Angelene Falk: “Organisations need to reduce the risk of a data breach by addressing human error." Angelene Falk: “Organisations need to reduce the risk of a data breach by addressing human error." Supplied

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner was notified of 539 data breaches during the July-December 2020 period, an increase of 5% on the figure of 512 reported during the previous three months.

The Australian Government figured among the top five industry sectors for the first time, accounting for 6% of the breaches, with human error blamed.

Malicious or criminal attacks were blamed for 310 of the breaches while system faults were responsible for 25 breaches.

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said 38% of the breaches were attributed to human error.

“In the past six months, we saw an increase in human error breaches both in terms of the total number of notifications received – up 18% to 204 – and proportionally – up from 34% to 38%,” she said.

oaic breaches

“The human factor is also a dominant theme in many malicious or criminal attacks, which remain the leading source of breaches notified to my office.

“Organisations need to reduce the risk of a data breach by addressing human error – for example, by prioritising training staff on secure information handling practices.”

Falk said it was important that all entities which handled personal information should be prepared to deal with a data breach.

“Entities must have effective systems for detecting, containing, assessing, notifying and reviewing data breaches," she said.

breaches jul dec 2020

“Critically, they need to provide individuals with clear and timely information about data breaches, including recommendations on steps they can take to protect themselves from harm. Any unnecessary delay in providing this information undermines the purpose of the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme.”

Falk said the information and guidance provided in the report could be used by companies to review their processes and ensure they were fit for purpose.

“We are nearing three years of operation of the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme and expect that entities have systems in place to report breaches in line with legislative requirements,” she said.

“We also expect organisations to have improved the security of personal information they hold to prevent breaches.

“We will continue to closely monitor compliance with the scheme and prioritise regulatory action where there are significant failings.”

Commenting on the report, John Donovan, managing director of ANZ at global cyber security outfit Sophos, said: "While malicious or criminal attacks remain the leading source of notifications in the latest OAIC Notifiable Data Breaches report, it's concerning that breaches resulting from human error increased by 18%.

"This suggests Australian employees are failing to recognise and mitigate emerging cyber threats appearing under remote working conditions.

"The importance of cyber awareness training cannot be under-estimated, particularly as so many organisations continue to operate under remote or hybrid working arrangements. Efforts to build a cyber-aware culture must by promoted throughout all levels of organisations and across all sectors.

"Given that critically important health service providers once again reported the most breaches of any sectors, focusing on improving cyber-security awareness needs to be a priority for national safety and security."

The chairman and joint chief executive of Australian cyber security company VeroGuard Systems, H. Daniel Elbaum, said: “The most obvious opportunity for government and business is to address the single largest weakness when migrating to the cloud.

"That is the inability of existing platforms to offer strong verification and absolute protection of users' identity when communicating and transacting online.

"We believe the highest priority for government and business has to be to build the infrastructure that properly protects users and machines digital identities. Any other cyber-security measure is simply proving to be ineffective when a criminal is using legitimate credentials to illegitimately access systems and data.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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