Accessibility links

Breaking News

New Research Says a Third of Australians Victims of Data Breaches

FILE - An illustration picture shows a man using a computer keyboard to enter data.
FILE - An illustration picture shows a man using a computer keyboard to enter data.

New research released Tuesday has found that a third of Australian adults have been victims of data breaches in the last year. Analysis by the Australian National University shows that cyberattacks are one of the fastest growing types of crime in the country.

The survey of almost 3,500 Australian adults during October 2022 found 32.1% of respondents said that they or a member of their household had been the victim of a data breach. The findings follow high-profile hacks.

By comparison, the Australian National University study found only 11.2% of Australians had been the victim of serious crimes such as burglary or assault in the last five years.

The ANU research followed one of Australia’s biggest data hacks in September when the personal details, including home addresses, driver licenses and passport numbers, of up to 10 million customers of the Singapore-owned telecom giant Optus were stolen.

Last month, one of Australia’s biggest health insurers was also the victim of a major cyberattack. Medibank said the personal details of about ten million current and former customers had potentially been stolen. Sensitive information about medical conditions and procedures have been compromised.

Company chief executive David Koczkar told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday that it would not pay a ransom demanded by criminals.

"There is only a small chance that any extortion payment or ransom payment would actually return the data of our customers," Koczkar explained. "There is actually a strong chance that any payment would actually increase the risk of extortion for our customers and actually put more Australians at risk."

Australia is increasing fines imposed on companies for serious or repeated privacy breaches. The penalties will be raised to at least $31.6 million. The current fine is $1.39 million. The federal government believes tougher sanctions are needed after recent high-profile cyberattacks.

The Australian Tax Office reported in October that it receives three million attempted hacks on its system every month.