Facebook’s terrible year continues with exposure of 6.8 million users photos

December 17, 2018

For Facebook, even more so than Google, 2018 was an annus horribilis, at least on the reputational and branding front.  Wired reports that for Facebook had a bug in September which let third party developers to view photos of 6.8 million Facebook users whether they were shared photos or not.

This of course comes on the back of Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s ambivalent regard for privacy begins to catch up with it…

December 12, 2018

As if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report on Digital Platforms Inquiry wasn’t enough of a shot across Google (and others) bow Google has had to admit that Google Plus has had another, as in repeat, privacy flaw.  In October Google admitted a privacy flaw which had affected about half a million Google Plus profiles in the fortnight prior to fixing that problem.  Google admitted that the accounts had been exposed in March 2018.  The flaw was very significant, being the exposure of user’s names, email addresses dates of birth, profile photographs and occupations (amongst other details) to third party app developers through an API Bug.  An API, application programming interface, is a set of  is a set of subroutine  definitions , communication protocols, and tools for building software.  It allows the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application or other service.    On 10 December 2018 Google admitted to another bug which has affected Google Plus, potentially allowing 52 million user’s personal information to be accessed by third party apps and developers without permission. Google claimed that the flaw was introduced with a software update.  That in and of itself bespeaks as lack of competence.  The problem is Read the rest of this entry »

ACCC releases preliminary report on Google, Facebook and Australian news with significant recommendations on privacy law

December 10, 2018

Nature abhors a vacuum.  That truism tends to apply, eventually, in law as in the natural world.  Gaps in the law that are not filled by regulations are, often with baby steps, attended to by the courts.  Similarly a failure by one regulator to attend to its garden will often find another regulator, with aligned interests, stepping in to carry the weight.  And it is that last circumstance that applies with the ACCC’s preliminary report into Google, Facebook, Australian News and advertising.  Amongst the  11 preliminary recommendations the ACCC proposes at recommendations 8 – 10 increasing privacy protections by amendment to the Privacy Act 1988 to improve notification requirements, strengthening consent requirements, enabling the erasure of personal information, enabling a person to bring an action for breach of the Privacy Act and introducing an action for serious invasion of privacy.  The Information Commissioners’ Office has Read the rest of this entry »

Marriott suffers data breach involving personal information of 500 million guests

December 2, 2018

The size of data breaches are moving to levels where the numbers begin to be detached from easy comprehension.  According to IT Governance as at 27 November 2018 the total of known leaked records in November was 251,286,753.  That however was prior to Read the rest of this entry »

A timely article on political parties and the Privacy Act

November 27, 2018

The ABC in Political parties may know a lot more about you than you think has undertaken a neat, informative though hardly ground breaking piece on how political parties hoover up masses of personal information without any need to comply with the Privacy Act 1988.  Because they are exempt from the operations of the Privacy Act.  It is a topic that has been covered from time to time in the past, recently in Australia should strengthen its privacy laws and remove exemptions for politicians.

This exemption has been a longstanding flaw, among the many other flaws, of the Act.  It has been a flaw that both major political parties have Read the rest of this entry »

Australian Defence Contractor Austel suffers data breach

November 3, 2018

Austel, one of Australia’s main defence contractors has suffered a data breach.  It notified the Australian Securities Exchange last Thursday night.  The notice to the ASX is found here.  Unlike US notices it’s focus is on being vague on critical details and expansive on the impact, it says not much, and what it is doing in response, it says plenty.

The Notice states:

Austal Limited (ASX:ASB) advised that its Australian business has detected and responded to a breach of the company’s data management systems by an unknown offender.
Austal referred this matter to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the Australian Federal Police who have provided ongoing assistance and advice. Austal Australia’s Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) team have restored the security and integrity of the company’s data systems and have implemented, and continues to implement, additional security measures to prevent further breaches. A small number of stakeholders who were potentially directly impacted have been informed.
The data breach has had no impact on Austal’s ongoing operations. Austal’s business in the United States is unaffected by this issue as the computer systems are not linked.
No company wants to lose control of its information, but there is no evidence to date to suggest that information affecting national security nor the commercial operations of the company have been stolen: ship design drawings which may be distributed to customers and fabrication sub – contractors or suppliers are neither sensitive nor classified.
Some staff email addresses and mobile phone numbers were accessed and these staff members have been informed accordingly. The Office of the Australian Information Co
mmissioner will be involved as required.
Following the breach the offender purported to offer certain materials for sale on the internet and engage in extortion. The company has not and will not respond to the extortion attempts.
Austal cannot provide any additional information at this time

The statement, anodyne as any I have seen, confirms that the hacker attempted an extortion attempt.  What the report does not state but the Australian does is that the attack took place two weeks ago and involved the loss of 100 gigabytes of data. There is another report that the material was accessed over a month ago.  The Australian’s reports that Read the rest of this entry »

Report of drone used to invade privacy coincides with New Zealand Government review of regulation of drones

October 31, 2018

There is no dilema or delay in the technical development of drones, the common term for remotely piloted aircraft systems or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  There is however huge delays and significant dilemas by legislatures on how to respond to the legal challenges with the misuse of drones and what regulation is required.  In October 2016 the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs Transport References Committee conducted an enquiry on Regulatory requirements that impact on the safe use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems and associated systems.  The Committee tabled its report on 31 July 2018 with almost no fanfare.  And deservedly so.  It is a narrowly focused, quite technical and limited report focused on the use of drones and rather than the broader issues which affect not only the use of the drones but the impact they have on others.

In New Zealand there is a report of a drone being used to interfere with a persons’ privacy and as a means to scope out a home before burglaring it.  Coincidentally the New Zealand government is Read the rest of this entry »

Cathay Pacific suffers massive data breach compromising personal data of up to 9.4 million of its passengers meanwhile the British Airways woes continue

October 30, 2018

Certain industries attract hackers because their businesses are data troves of the best sort of personal information; names, dates of birth, banking and credit card information.  Banks, insurance companies, law firms, hospitals and other health providers are top of the list.  And airlines.  It is therefore hardly surprising that Cathay Pacific has been the subject of a successful data hack resulting in the records of 9.4 million passengers being compromised.  That includes 860,000 passport numbers being compromised.  The media coverage has been universally negative (here, here and here for example).  Particularly so given Cathay was aware of suspicious activity in March and Read the rest of this entry »

Apple Chief Executive attacks weaponisation of personal data

There are behmoths in each of the cyber platforms; Google for search engines, Facebook for social media and Apple for music and mp3 players.  There are others in each sphere but those three companies dominate their particular areas.  Of the two Apple has been more consistent in protecting privacy and maintaining data security than Google and Facebook.  Google is the least interested.

Apple has been a long standing dispute with the FBI over its refusal to help the FBI to access data on iphones.

It is relevant then to read Tim Cook raise the alarm about the danger of personal information being “weaponised” through better and better alogorithms and ubiquitous data collection.  At a privacy conference organised by the European Union he endorsed a comprehensive privacy law Read the rest of this entry »

Another day another data breach involving medical records…this time of school students

October 13, 2018

The Age reports on yet another depressing and altogether avoidable data breach.  The accessing of medical conditions, photographs, names and identifying data of year 7 – 12 students at Manor Lakes P -12 College in Wyndham Vale in Melbourne.

The Education Department has adopted a standard straight bat response of “human error” and not due to a vulnerability in the school and IT systems. The excuse is, it could be a lot worse (as in a systemic fault involving a costly fix).  What is not, and won’t be, disclosed as to how the breach occurred, what remedial action is taken and what punishment is administered.  Without consequences, there is little incentive to take real and decisive steps to minimise poor data practices. Unfortunately the regulators at both the state and Federal level Read the rest of this entry »