Tag: Privacy Awareness Week

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Privacy Awareness Week (Health Information): Health sector and the notifiable data breach scheme – 12 months on
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Surveillance software targets WhatsApp users
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Privacy Awareness Week (Online Privacy): credential stuffing attacks are on the rise in Australia

Privacy Awareness Week (Health Information): Health sector and the notifiable data breach scheme – 12 months on

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

It’s been a little over a year since the notifiable data breach scheme was introduced in Australia. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) issued its Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme 12-month Insights Report on 13 May 2019, detailing its insights to come out of the scheme’s operation over the past 12 months. As regular readers would no doubt be aware, the health sector was one of the top industry sectors to report breaches in the first 12 months of the scheme’s operation.

Here’s the health sector at a glance:

  • Of the 964 eligible data breaches notified to the OAIC from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, health information breaches accounted for 249 notifications (just over a quarter of all notifications). This is consistent with international trends which often show the health sector as a leading reporter of data breaches.
  • Human error was the leading cause of data breaches in the health sector, accounting for 55% of the breaches. This figure was relatively higher when compared to the average rate of data breaches in other industries due to human error (35%).
  • Human error in the health industry typically involved sending personal information to the wrong recipients via email and other forms communication.

Of itself, these figures seem to paint a grim picture for the health sector, which is the leading reporter of data breaches in Australia. However, there may be a silver lining for health organisations. As the Report identifies, the statistics arguably reflect the health sector’s preparedness to report data breaches. This potentially suggests a greater maturity and understanding of their obligations than other sectors that deal with less sensitive data, and could well be influenced by the more regulated nature of the sector, as well as the fact that the sector routinely deals with sensitive health information which inherently carries higher risk of causing serious harm if misused.

For more insights into health information and the scheme, check out our blog posts “My Health Records – to opt-in, or to opt-out? That is the question” and “Mandatory data breach reporting in 60 seconds”, or feel free to contact us for any assistance or information.

Surveillance software targets WhatsApp users

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Michelle Aggromito

Unfortunately for all of us, Privacy Awareness Week doesn’t mean a chance to take a break from seemingly endless data breach notifications and social media vulnerabilities.

This week it’s WhatsApp’s turn, with reports that hackers, or as WhatsApp described as “an advanced cyber-actor”, have been able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices of select targets, likely to be lawyers, journalists, activists and human rights defenders. The hackers were able to compromise the devices by using WhatsApp’s call function to ring the devices. The surveillance software was still installed even if the call was not picked up and the call reportedly would disappear from the compromised device’s call log. This means the malware could be installed without any action from the compromised user – and potentially without them even being able to determine that they had been compromised.

The surveillance software effectively rendered the app’s prized end-to-end encryption redundant as it allowed the attacker to read messages on the compromised devices.

WhatsApp released a fix last Friday and has encouraged all its users to update their apps, but some questions still remain.

In particular, while the app update fixes the issue that allowed the attack in the first place, it is not clear if the update can also remove the surveillance software embedded in already compromised devices.

WhatsApp has described the hackers as “a private company that has been known to work with governments to deliver spyware”, which news outlets have reported is Israel’s NSO Group. Regardless of the parties involved, the ability to defy WhatsApp’s encryption is a scary reminder of the potential impact of a “technical capability” that could be required under the recently enacted Australian encryption laws (except that it has not been kept secret!). If you would like to know more about the new laws, check out our recent blog posts ‘What do you need to know about the encryption killing legislation’ and ‘To encrypt or not encrypt? That is the question’, or feel free to contact us for any assistance or information.

Privacy Awareness Week (Online Privacy): credential stuffing attacks are on the rise in Australia

By Cameron Abbott, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

Today’s topic for Privacy Awareness Week is “online privacy”. It is no surprise that online privacy is a key topic of concern for businesses and consumers alike, given recent high-profile privacy breaches. Of particular significance is the issue of credential stuffing, as Australia is now the fifth highest target for credential stuffing attacks according to Akamai’s Credential Stuffing: Attacks and Economies report of April 2019 (Report).

Credential stuffing is a form of cyberattack where account credentials, usually usernames or email addresses and corresponding passwords, are stolen, typically from a previous security breach. The account credential combinations are then used to try and gain access to accounts at other sites via an automated and large-scale web application directed to multiple logins. It relies on individuals using the same password across multiple sites. K&L Gates has previously blogged on a high-profile credential stuffing attack that can be found here.

The key findings of the Report include:

  • the largest credential stuffing attacks of 2018 occurred in the video media sector. The market for stolen media and entertainment accounts is thriving as the accounts are sold in bulk;
  • the attacks usually occurred after reported data breaches; and
  • checker programs (or “All-in-One” applications) such as SNIPR are common. These programs allow attackers to validate stolen credentials or to generate combination lists. The credentials can then be sold, traded or harvested for various types of personal information.

Recent credential stuffing attacks demonstrate how your entire digital life can be exposed following a data breach paired with a credential stuffing attack. A successful credential stuffing attack can significantly damage a brand’s reputation and increase its operational costs – even though the attack wasn’t the brand’s fault.

Businesses should consider implementing multi-factor authentication, which can be effective in preventing credential stuffing attacks. Consumers should also be educated about phishing emails and the dangers of using the same password for all logins!

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