Tag: Cybersecurity

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Update from the Australia/New Zealand privacy conference and the changes to Australian privacy and cybersecurity laws
2
Privacy and cybersecurity laws expected to undergo a significant overhaul in the wake of Optus data breach
3
New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks
4
New concerns over China’s ability to access user data on WeChat
5
And it’s here! China’s new privacy laws come into effect
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Ransomware plan of action
7
Ransomware attacks – is there harm even when nothing is stolen?
8
$300 million of the Victorian Budget set aside to improve cyber security
9
Australia’s international cyber strategy pivots towards critical technology in neighboring countries
10
Continuing to take its Toll: Toll Group still feeling impacts nine months after experiencing Ransomware Attack

Update from the Australia/New Zealand privacy conference and the changes to Australian privacy and cybersecurity laws

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Stephanie Mayhew

We’ve just returned from the annual iapp Australia/New Zealand privacy conference held in Sydney this week, and it was a whirlwind. Even if you’re not one of around half of Australians affected by two of the biggest data breaches in our recent history, you’ll be aware a lot is changing – and a lot more is poised to change – in this space.

We’ll be blogging over the coming weeks about some of the key themes and changes your organisation will need to prepare for, including:

– new regulatory enforcement tools

– higher expectations of the way personal information is collected and secured, and when it needs to be destroyed

– potential removal of key exemptions such as the employee records exemption that your business may currently rely on,

– and of course the major penalty increases that seek to deter privacy breaches being viewed as ‘the cost of doing business’,

as Australia tightens the protections around the collection and use of Australians’ personal information.

Stay tuned!

Privacy and cybersecurity laws expected to undergo a significant overhaul in the wake of Optus data breach

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Stephanie Mayhew

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.

New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Dadar Ahmadi-Pirshahid

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.

New concerns over China’s ability to access user data on WeChat

By Cameron Abbott and Hugo Chow

A recent report by cybersecurity firm, Internet 2.0, has raised concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to access the data of millions of users around the world of social media and payment application, WeChat.

WeChat is significant as it is the application that nearly all citizens in China use on a daily basis for communication, payments for services and as a way for citizens to connect through social media. Although the majority of WeChat’s more than 1 billion users are located in China, there are approximately 600,000 users in Australia, 1.3 million users in the UK, and 1.5 million users in the United States.

One of the concerns the report outlines is that although WeChat states that its servers are kept outside mainland China, all user data that WeChat logs and posts to its logging server goes directly to Hong Kong. And the report argues that under Hong Kong’s new National Security Legislation, there is little difference between Hong Kong resident servers and servers in mainland China.

As a result, due to China’s National Intelligence Law which requires organisations and citizens to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work”, there are concerns that the WeChat logging data that goes to servers in Hong Kong may be accessed by the Chinese Government upon request. The report states that the data that goes to Hong Kong is log data, which includes the user’s mobile network, device information, GPS information, phone ID, the version of the operating system of the device, but does not include information such as content of a conversation.

Another concern the report outlines is that although there was no evidence that chats were stored outside the user’s device, the report found that WeChat had the potential to access all the data in a user’s clipboard. This means that there is the potential for WeChat to access the data that is copied and pasted by users on WeChat, which is a risk to people using password managers that rely on the clipboard feature to copy and paste their passwords.

We expect to hear more about these sorts of concerns from a range of jurisdictions.

And it’s here! China’s new privacy laws come into effect

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Ella Richards

On 1 November 2021 the People’s Republic of China (PRC) effected the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL).

The PIPL joins existing Cybersecurity Law and Data Security Law to broaden privacy obligations within the PRC. This comprehensive legislation governs the treatment of personal information within the PRC and strengthens the existing data localisation requirements.

Our colleagues have summarised the PIPL Draft Bill here and prepared advice on the collection of employee’s personal information under the PIPL here.         

Ransomware plan of action

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Ella Richards

Following the 60% increase in ransomware attacks over the past year, the Department of Home Affairs has released a Ransomware Action Plan – proposing to introduce mandatory reporting requirements for companies who have been hit by a ransomware attack.

Under the proposal, companies with a turnover of $10 million or more per year will be required to inform the Australian Cyber Security Centre soon after experiencing a ransomware attack and will face civil penalties if they fail to comply. The government is also planning to introduce a standalone offence for cybercriminals who seek to target critical infrastructure as part of the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020.

This document is part of Australia’s overarching 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, with industry and community consultation anticipated in the near future. Stand by for further developments.

Ransomware attacks – is there harm even when nothing is stolen?

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

In November 2020, accounting and consulting firm Nexia Australia (Nexia) was alerted to a “REvil” ransomware attack taking place within its system. The attackers threatened to post personal information of Nexia’s clients, customers and staff online unless it paid a $1m ransom within 72 hours.

It was reported that the hackers appeared to have posted Nexia’s confidential files onto the dark web; however, further investigation revealed that the hackers had merely posted screenshots of Nexia’s files. Realising this, Nexia dismissed the threat and refused to pay the ransom.

But it didn’t end there.

Shortly after the attack, a news service found the Nexia screenshots on the dark web and publicised that the company’s confidential information had been stolen and shared. Not only did Nexia have to reassure panicking clients that their confidential information remained uncompromised, it had to convince the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the Privacy Commissioner that nothing of concern had been taken.

It doesn’t help that ransomware-as-a-service is becoming an increasingly lucrative business for cybercriminals to launch this type of attack. All that is needed is off-the-shelf malware, a wallet of cryptocurrency and it’s ready to deploy against an unsuspecting organisation.

The attack on Nexia demonstrates that even if there is no evidence that confidential information has been leaked, organisations can still suffer significant damage. The cost of reassuring stakeholders and mitigating reputational harm can almost match the consequences of a full blown attack.

As Warren Buffet famously quoted, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”.  While Nexia recovered valiantly, this serves as a lesson that even when unsuccessful, the public ramifications of a ransomware attack are not to be underestimated.

$300 million of the Victorian Budget set aside to improve cyber security

By Cameron Abbott and Jacqueline Patishman

The recently released Victorian budget shows that more than $300 million of the 2021-2022 state budget is to be used to improve the government’s ability to prevent, detect and control cyber risks. Well sort of… it also includes a range of more vanilla possible projects such as case administration systems at AAT, upgrading radio communication for Forest Fire Management Fire Victoria staff – so perhaps it is not as large a cybersecurity spend as it first looks.

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Australia’s international cyber strategy pivots towards critical technology in neighboring countries

By Cameron Abbott, Michelle Aggromito, Jacqueline Patishman and Emily Gamaroff

In a bid to maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia has pledged $37.5 million to bolster the security and development of critical technology in neighboring countries as part of its updated International Cyber Engagement Strategy. The funding aims to promote the resilience of critical technologies in Southeast Asia and to support Australia’s Pacific neighbours by improving online safety, counter misinformation and to fight cybercrime.

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Continuing to take its Toll: Toll Group still feeling impacts nine months after experiencing Ransomware Attack

By Cameron Abbott, Keely O’Dowd and Max Evans

Back in February, we blogged about the large scale ransomware attack experienced by Toll Group.

IT News reports Toll is still “mopping up” the damage caused by these attacks. Since July, Toll has embarked on a year-long accelerated cyber resilience program incorporating teams in India and Australia which led to the appointment of former Telstra Asia Pacific CISO Berin Lautenbach as Toll’s global head of information security in August.

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