Tag: COVID-19

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Privacy Pandemic: Australians Losing Trust in Institutions’ Use of Their Data
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Good practice – the storage of COVID-19 vaccination certificates
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Privacy obligations when collecting COVID-19 vaccination status
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ICO issues record £20 million fine to British Airways
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From voluntary action and collaboration to legislation and classified capabilities: Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020 released
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Can It Get Any Worse? Travel Giant CWT pays $4.5 Million USD ransom to Hackers who Stole Corporate Files and Knocked 30,000 Computers Offline
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“The best of its kind anywhere in the world today”: COVIDSafe among the safest tracing apps globally, study finds
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Credential stuffing during COVID-19: Cybersecurity firm purchased over 500,000 Zoom account credentials on the dark web and hacker forums
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D’oh! Beer company suffers cyber attack
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Click your “e-John Hancock” onto that: COVID-19 helps the Australian Government clear the way for electronic execution under section 127(1) of the Corporations Act

Privacy Pandemic: Australians Losing Trust in Institutions’ Use of Their Data

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Max Evans and James Gray

In the age of QR code check-ins and vaccination certificates, as Australia edges towards a post-pandemic (or mid-pandemic, it increasingly seems) “normal”, new research from the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed that Australians have become less trusting of institutions with regards to data privacy.

The ANU researchers said that the decrease in public trust between May 2020 and August 2021 was small but “statistically significant”. A key reason for this decrease, according to the researchers, was concern around “how their private data from check-in apps might be used by major institutions” as lockdowns and the use of apps for contact tracing intensified.

The institutions which experienced the greatest loss of trust were social media companies (10.1% decline), telecommunications companies, and federal, state and territory governments. This echoes sentiment from the OAIC following its recent ‘community attitudes to privacy’ survey that Australians trust social media companies the least when it comes to handling personal information, followed by the government.

While it remains to be seen whether this loss of trust becomes a permanent trend, one way to make Australians more comfortable with an organisation’s data practices – as reinforced by the OAIC – is to ensure the purpose of the collection and use of personal information is clearly understood. The OAIC has found that Australians are increasingly questioning data practices where the purpose for collecting personal information is unclear.

With increased penalties for privacy non-compliance looming, there’s never been a better time to revisit your privacy policies and collection statements to make sure that these are clear, so your organisation can stand out against this trend and build consumer trust.

Good practice – the storage of COVID-19 vaccination certificates

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Ella Richards

As the public’s focus in NSW and Victoria turns quickly to reopening and emerging from lockdowns, we have experienced an increased focus across the country on vaccination rates. Public health orders and laws in several Australian jurisdictions have changed to require businesses to, amongst other things, collect, store and hold vaccine information about their workers, and to take steps to ensure unvaccinated persons do not enter their premises.

This has led to businesses collecting vaccination information including in the form of government-issued COVID-19 vaccination certificates. However the collection of this information creates additional legal and cyber security risks. Some federal government issued certificates contain an individual healthcare identifier (IHI) – a number individually identifies an Australian for healthcare purposes (it is more sensitive than your Medicare number). The IHI combined with the individual’s name and date of birth creates an attractive opportunity for cyber criminals. It is so sensitive that it comes with its own specific legislation sanctions including criminal penalties for breach.

Businesses should ensure they have the right processes in place when collecting and storing this kind of information to avoid exposure to civil and criminal penalties, including up to two years’ imprisonment for improper use or disclosure of an IHI.

For more information on the appropriate processes for collection and storage of vaccination information, please contact Cameron Abbott from our Privacy team. K&L Gates will keep you informed of any further updates.

Privacy obligations when collecting COVID-19 vaccination status

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Ella Richards

Some Australian jurisdictions have imposed obligations on businesses and employers to either sight, or collect and hold, information about their workers’ COVID-19 vaccination status, or to take reasonable steps to ensure unvaccinated individuals do not enter their worksites or premises. For example, on 7 October 2021, the Premier of Victoria released Directions that require employers to collect information about workers’ COVID-19 vaccination status before allowing them to work anywhere outside of the employees’ usual place of residence. Industry-specific obligations (with some differences to those Directions) also apply to some settings such as education, construction and healthcare. Similarly, under public health orders in New South Wales, certain businesses from 11 October 2021 must take reasonable steps to ensure people who are not fully vaccinated do not enter their premises.

The Victorian Government Directions for workers are in effect from today, 15 October 2021, meaning that many employees must provide proof of either receiving their first dose or having booked their first dose by 22 October 2021.

To comply with privacy obligations (including under applicable health records legislation), employers must provide employees with a clear collection statement that outlines, among other things:

  1. the types of sensitive information that the employer is collecting;
  2. the purpose of the collection;
  3. who the employer may disclose the information to, including specifying if any of these parties are outside of Australia; and
  4. a reference to the employer’s Privacy Policy that applies to the information collected about employees.

Even where a business is not subject to these mandatory collection requirements, they may wish to collect this information from employees to assist the business to maintain a safe and secure working environment (including, for example, to provide encouragement to staff to get vaccinated – subject to the requirements around providing incentives to do so).

If you would like advice on your Privacy obligations as an employer, please reach out to Cameron Abbott from our Privacy team. For further information on the Victorian Government Directions, see the Alert from our K&L Gates employment team here.

ICO issues record £20 million fine to British Airways

By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Gill

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined British Airways £20 million, the ICO’s largest fine to date, for failing to protect the personal and financial details of more than 400,000 of its customers.

In a statement published online on 16 October 2020, the ICO stated that its investigation had found that British Airways was “processing a significant amount of personal data without adequate security measures in place”. This failure is said to have breached data protection laws and, subsequently, the airline was the subject of a cyberattack in 2018, which was not detected for more than two months.

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From voluntary action and collaboration to legislation and classified capabilities: Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020 released

By Cameron Abbott, Keely O’Dowd and Rebecca Gill

In July this year, we blogged about the Australian Government’s plan to release Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy (Strategy). On 6 August 2020, the Strategy was released after consultation with the public and industry actors.

The Strategy will invest $1.67 billion over the next 10 years – the largest ever financial commitment to cyber security – to create a more secure online world for Australians, our businesses and the essential services which we depend upon. This will be achieved through the following:

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Can It Get Any Worse? Travel Giant CWT pays $4.5 Million USD ransom to Hackers who Stole Corporate Files and Knocked 30,000 Computers Offline

By Cameron Abbott and Max Evans

In these unprecedented times, where travel around the globe is primarily halted as nations get to grips with controlling the outbreak of COVID-19, many would think it couldn’t get any worse for travel companies. However, they would be wrong, as according to an article from ITNews, American travel management giant CWT has reportedly paid a whopping 414 bitcoin, equivalent to a value of 4.5 Million USD (approximately 6.3 Million AUD), to hackers who successfully exfiltrated over 2 terabytes of sensitive corporate files.

According to the Article, the successful hackers used a strain of ransomware referred to as “Ragnar Locker” which places computer files into a virtual prison through encryption and renders them unusable until the victim pays for the keys. Then in CWT had to negotiate in a public chat forum to pay for the release.  It gives us a rare insight into the dialogue that followed. CWT negotiated the hackers down from their initial demand of 10 Million USD. According to the Report, whilst the hackers claimed to have stolen over 2 terabytes of files including financial reports, security documents and employees’ personal data, it was not clear whether any customer data was compromised.

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“The best of its kind anywhere in the world today”: COVIDSafe among the safest tracing apps globally, study finds

By Cameron Abbott, Warwick Andersen, Rob Pulham and Rebecca Gill

In some positive news about the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app, the University of Adelaide’s cybersecurity experts have assessed the Australian contact tracing app to be one of the best and safest among 34 apps used globally to track and trace COVID-19 cases.

A team from the University’s School of Computer Science made the judgment in a study which assessed Android versions of 34 of the world’s COVID-19 contact tracing apps for security and privacy vulnerabilities.

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Credential stuffing during COVID-19: Cybersecurity firm purchased over 500,000 Zoom account credentials on the dark web and hacker forums

By Cameron Abbott, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

In what could only be adding fuel to the fire that is the growing concern over Zoom’s privacy and data security risks, it has been reported that over 500,000 Zoom accounts were sold on the dark web and hacker forums earlier in April. The accounts were purchased by cybersecurity firm Cyble after it noticed free Zoom accounts were being posted on hacker forums.

Cyble was able to purchase approximately 530,000 Zoom credentials, which included a user’s email address, password, personal meeting URL, and their HostKey (a six-digit number used to host meetings on Zoom). Victims included well-known companies such as Chase, Citibank and educational institutions including the University of Colorado and the University of Florida. According to Cyble, credentials belonging to its clients in the bulk purchase were also confirmed to be correct.

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D’oh! Beer company suffers cyber attack

By Cameron Abbott and Keely O’Dowd

On Tuesday last week, Lion Beer Australia announced it had experienced a cyber incident. During the week, Lion advised there was no evidence to date of any data breaches, but was still investigating the cyber attack. Investigations revealed Lion was subject to a ransomware attack. 

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Click your “e-John Hancock” onto that: COVID-19 helps the Australian Government clear the way for electronic execution under section 127(1) of the Corporations Act

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Warwick Andersen

Temporary amendments to the Australian Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Corporations Act) took effect on 6 May 2020, making it easier to facilitate company meetings using remote technology, and providing some certainty as to companies’ execution of documents electronically under section 127(1) of the Corporations Act.

The Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No. 1) 2020 (Determination) allows company meetings such as AGMs to be held using technology rather than face-to-face meetings, and enables a quorum, votes, notices and the asking of questions to be facilitated electronically. For a more in-depth look at these changes, see “Operating a Business During COVID-19: The Implications for Public Companies” by our colleagues Harry Kingsley, Kaveh Zegrati, and Alex Garfinkel.

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