Effective immediately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) banned AI-generated phone calls with its recent Declaratory Ruling (the Ruling). Known as audio or voice “deepfakes,” AI can be trained to mimic any person’s voice, resulting in novel scams such as grandparents receiving a call from their “grandchild” and believing they have been kidnapped or need money for bail. FCC Commissioner Starks deemed such deepfakes a threat to election integrity, recalling that just recently, “potential primary voters in New Hampshire received a call, purportedly from President Biden, telling them to stay home and ‘save your vote’ by skipping the state’s primary.”Read More
We saw last year how low hackers are willing to stoop to shame companies into paying ransoms, including leaking sensitive information aimed at embarrassing individuals affected by data breaches. As a result we also saw prominent calls for ransom payments to be ‘banned’, to reduce the financial incentives for hackers to target Australians’ personal information.
We are now hearing the flipside to that argument, with AGL Energy warning that a government-imposed ban on companies paying cyber ransoms to hackers could cause “catastrophic damage”.Read More
Presumably inspired by the recently released “Honor Among Thieves”, a film based on table-top roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, the Australian government invited representatives from the Reserve Bank, the AFP and regulators ASIC and APRA for a three-hour session of cybersecurity roleplay. Further exercises are expected to be conducted with major banks and financial services, and eventually with the aviation sector and other critical infrastructure areas.Read More
Shortly after the Government announced their ambition to make Australia a global leader in cyber security, Australia has been named the country with “the greatest progress and commitment toward creating a cyber defence environment” in MIT’s Cyber Defence Index of 2022/23.
However, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s latest notifiable data breaches report paints a different picture. The Commissioner reported a 26% increase in the number of total reported data breaches and a 41% increase in the number of reported data breaches arising from malicious or criminal attacks compared with the first half of 2022. Health service providers and the finance sector were the worst hit, together representing almost a third of reported data breaches.
In releasing the report, the Commissioner once again stressed the need for organisations to collect only the minimum amount of personal information required and deleting it when it is no longer needed. In the report the Commissioner has recommended a number of steps to address the kinds of issues featured in the second half of 2022, including:Read More
Not content with merely implementing broad-scale privacy reform, the Government has announced a new position, the Coordinator for Cyber Security to be added to the Department of Home Affairs as a step towards their aim of “making Australia the most cyber secure nation by 2030“. This would seem to be a rather aspirational target!
The Coordinator will be supported by a National Office for Cyber Security, and their role will be to oversee steps to prevent future cyber security incidents and to help manage cyber incidents as they occur.Read More
Over the past two years, the Privacy Act has been the subject of long-awaited reform in Australia however, it seems the Optus data breach may have given it some much needed momentum.
The Optus attack is understood to have affected the details of 11.2m Optus customers, and of that 2.8m individuals have had their driver’s licence and/or passport numbers compromised. The hacker claims to have extracted the data from an API – software that allows two different systems to talk to each other. Therefore, if the claim is true the hacker didn’t need to provide authentication (e.g. a username and password) to retrieve the data.
In the wake of the attack, the Government has shared its plans to pursue substantial reforms that will include increased penalties under the Privacy Act (currently capped at $2.22m per offence) as well as changes to data breach notification laws to allow companies to rapidly inform financial institutions of affected individuals in an effort to minimise fraud.
The data breach also highlights the risks involved in collecting large amounts of personal information and storing this for excessive time periods. While the Privacy Act promotes the collection of a minimum amount of personal information, i.e. only that information that is necessary for a particular purpose and which the entity intends to use or disclose – individuals generally have limited control over how long their information is retained for.
During the initial stages of the Privacy Act review, the Attorney General’s Department sought submissions from entities on their views as to whether individuals should be given the right to have their personal information erased. Optus in submissions to the review argued against such a change stating that the right to erase personal data would involve significant technical hurdles and compliance costs that would outweigh the benefits. Of course this incident has happened just as stores are gearing up for Halloween – a fitting time for those public submissions to come back to haunt them.
OpenSea have reported a breach whereby email addresses registered with the site have been shared with an unauthorised third party.
For landlubbers, OpenSea is the world’s largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The Head of Security at OpenSea identified an employee of OpenSea’s third party email delivery vendor as the source of the breach. The employee reportedly misused their access privileges to download and share the list of the site’s registered email addresses with an external party.
People who have shared an email address with OpenSea, such as subscribers to the site’s newsletter, are warned to remain vigilant about attempts by malicious parties to impersonate communications from OpenSea.
OpenSea has dealt with several security incidents this year. Only a month ago, a former OpenSea product manager was arrested and is reportedly the first person to have been charged in connection with a digital asset insider trading scheme. The product manager’s responsibilities included deciding which NFTs would be featured on the site’s homepage, which he allegedly used for his own financial gain. When OpenSea had discovered his conduct in September 2021, OpenSea requested and accepted the product manager’s resignation. Immediately afterwards, OpenSea commissioned a third party review of the incident and implemented the review’s recommendations to strengthen their existing policies.
In May this year, OpenSea’s Discord server was hacked. Just a few months earlier, 254 NFTs valued at around $1.7million USD were stolen through what appear to have been phishing attacks. OpenSea has reportedly reimbursed the victims.
These incidences highlight the status of NFT marketplaces as high value targets for malicious actors and reveals that many of the security vulnerabilities faced in the ‘old’ world of cyber technology remain a threat in the new world of blockchain and NFTs.
Once again, these incidents serve as a reminder for organisations to develop effective cyber security risk management, which requires an approach that encompasses all security vulnerabilities and that includes mechanisms governing employee access and use of sensitive information.
A critical security vulnerability has been discovered in Apache Log4j, an open-source logging library used by many popular Java applications to provide logging functionality for troubleshooting purposes, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).
The software’s vulnerability, known as Log4Shell, allows for remote code execution, which, if left unfixed, could allow cybercriminals to take control of IT systems, steal personal data, passwords and files, and install backdoors for future access, simply by adding an additional line of arbitrary code. According to the ACSC, malicious cyber actors have used this vulnerability to target and compromise IT systems globally and in Australia, which led the ACSC to publish advice on mitigation and detection recommendations.Read More
The United States Department of Homeland Security has developed the Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET) which provides a systematic (and repeatable) process that critical infrastructure asset owners can use to assess and improve their cyber security management systems. This tool has a particular focus on the security of industrial control systems and information networks.Read More
The Telecommunications Legislations Amendment (International Orders) Bill 2020 has just cleared both houses of parliament. The new bill establishes a reciprocal cross-border data access regime between the United States and Australia which will allow for cross-border communications between foreign governments for national security and law enforcement purposes.Read More