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Friday, 04 November 2022 10:18

Helping Optus spin breach fallout: the AFR shows the way Featured

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Helping Optus spin breach fallout: the AFR shows the way Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

One reason why a company like Singtel Optus can leak customer data in a breach that is, by all accounts, its own fault and then avoid being held to account is because of the media's fawning coverage.

A typical example can be seen in Friday's Australian Financial Review, which carried an interview about what the Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan has learnt from the breach. Of course, it's good to know that the man has learnt something.

For context, Optus has been dragged kicking and screaming to pledge that it would pay for replacing the passports that were leaked. Only this morning, the ABC reported that the company had been made to extend this to holders of foreign passports as well – after the matter had been ventilated on the 7.30 program.

The telco is still refusing to pay for the replacement of driving licences, only expressing a willingness to pay for the administration expenses associated with issuing these forms of ID.

But what the AFR, which actually claims to be a newspaper, was more bothered about was O'Sullivan's description of the breach as being "not like someone breaking into your home and stealing a TV". Who knew?

O'Sullivan talked up the difficulty of dealing with data volumes that reached 20TB. In an age when no average PC has a drive smaller than a terabyte, such talk is silly.

But his interrogator, Tony Boyd, apparently swallowed everything, hook, line and sinker. He did not press O'Sullivan about the details of the attack or whether the entire review that the company has commissioned from Deloitte would be released publicly.

[The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and Home Affairs are also investigating the circumstances of the breach.]

Boyd was happy to accept O'Sullivan's spin: “What people will see when the reviews come out, is that what’s happened here is a classic perfect storm – it’s the alignment of a number of events, which has led to the breach getting through. So, there will be learnings and there will be lessons, but I think everyone should sit back and wait to get the authoritative review.”

Cool, then there's nothing to worry about, I guess.

We also learnt that O'Sullivan backs his chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin. What a surprise!!!

Bayer Rosmarin has been exposed — surprisingly in the same AFR — by Michael Roddan whose article was headlined "Optus job was only a part-time gig" for the CEO. In the AFR's Rear Window section, Roddan also skewered his own employer for saying that the Optus CEO “made a courageous and correct call to get in front of the media in a video call that felt strangely intimate and completely open”.

He also had no kind words for The Australian, which he pointed out had empathised with Bayer Rosmarin being “on the verge of tears when asked how she feels about the data breach occurring under her leadership”.

But more importantly, Roddan pointed out, "... what was Bayer Rosmarin doing with her time since joining Optus as deputy boss in March 2019? Well, it turns out, a lot of her time was spent helping to govern completely different companies that were not Optus." Full details are here.

However, Boyd had no time to waste on such frivolity. O'Sullivan said Bayer Rosmarin had "demonstrated strong leadership in a time of immense pressure. And I think, as we’ve seen with other events, I think she’s demonstrated the importance of moving openly and quickly, to keep customers informed.” And Boyd, no doubt, nodded his head in an understanding manner.

Getting information out of Optus — and, Lord knows, I have tried — is akin to getting blood out of a stone. At every step, Optus has had to be pushed and pulled into providing answers.

The government has fallen off the track as well, but that is a separate subject which deserves its own treatment. The public, however, are getting screwed and the AFR has certainly played its part in that.

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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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