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Cyber-attack on wireless company reveals data of 40% of this country’s population

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According to ReutersAustralia’s second-largest wireless provider, Optus, has reached out to customers about a data breach that revealed the personal information of as many as 10 million customers. The size of the compromised database makes this one of the largest cybersecurity failures in the country’s history. With 10 million subscribers, the sheer number of affected Australians is equivalent to about 40% of the population of 25.9 million people.

40% of the Australian population may have had personal data stolen in the Optus data breach

Information that may have been obtained by the attackers involved includes the names, dates of birth, home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers of those in the database. All that is known about the data breach is that it comes from an offshore entity. Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said she was sorry and angry about the cyber attack. The company said yesterday that it is trying to “reach out to all customers to inform them of the potential impact of the previously announced cyber attack on their personal data”.

“We will start with customers whose ID document number may have been compromised, all of whom will be notified today,” Optus said in a statement. “We will notify customers who were the last to be impacted. No passwords or financial details were hacked.” The “advanced hack,” as the data breach was dubbed by Optus, did not appear to affect business customers.

The CEO noted that many Optus customers are now concerned about the security of their personal information and frustrated by the incident.

Authorities are investigating a possible clue. The Sydney Morning Herald published a story yesterday stating that Optus received a blackmail threat demanding that it pay $1 million in cryptocurrency or else the hackers would sell the personal information of millions of customers. Australian Federal Police told Reuters they are aware of reports of customer data and other Optus ‘credentials’ being available for sale on the ‘dark web’ and through other sources.

Optus noted that as the case is under investigation by law enforcement agencies, the amount of information it can release regarding this data breach is limited. The carrier did point out that the hackers’ IP address moved between different countries in Europe. The wireless provider suggested in a tweet that customers watch for unusual and suspicious activity in their accounts.

Optus subscribers should monitor their accounts for strange or suspicious activity

The tweet read: “While we don’t know that customers have been harmed, we encourage you to make your accounts more aware, including looking out for unusual or fraudulent activity, as well as any reports that seem strange or suspicious.” Optus currently has approximately 5.8 million active users, representing 21% of Australia’s

population. Telstra is the largest wireless provider in the country with nearly 20 million subscribers.

David Emm, who works as a cybersecurity researcher for Kaspersky, told the… BBC that “It is good to see that Optus has said it will contact those it believes have been affected and that they will not send messages in email or SMS [text] messages – this makes it clear to customers that such messages they receive are fake. It’s also reassuring that no passwords or payment details were stolen.”

Emm added, “Nevertheless, customers should be alert to fraudulent activity they see and protect their online accounts with unique, complex passwords and two-factor authentication.”

In the US, hackers have plucked T-Mobile. The carrier had a tab worth at least $500 million for customer compensation and to strengthen its internal security systems after more than 48 million former, current and future T-Mobile customers have had their personal data swiped. The attack on the country’s second-largest cellular carrier took place in 2021. To help customers who believed their personal information had been stolen, T-Mobile offered them two years of free McAfee ID Theft Protection Service.

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