Slowly it’s dawning on government agencies how serious online data breaches can be. That can only be a good thing.
With a billion account details exposed the Yahoo! data breach announced last year was the greatest internet security failure to date.
Now Australian government agencies are worried about the scope of the breach and the number of politicians and officeholders whose credentials may have been affected.
Other government officials compromised include those carrying out sensitive roles such as high-ranking AFP officers, AusTrac money laundering analysts, judges and magistrates, political advisors, and even an employee of the Australian Privacy Commissioner.
The ramifications of this breach are far broader than just a few malcontents grabbing the contents of disused Yahoo! mail accounts or being able to hack Flickr profiles, many of the passwords will have been used on other services, compromised profiles linked to other platforms and the possible for identity fraud is immense.
With social media and cloud computing services coupled to these accounts, it’s quite possible for someone’s entire life to be hijacked thanks to one insecure service as Wired’s Matt Horan discovered a few years ago.
Just like individuals and businesses, the ramifications of careless organisations allowing private information to be stolen can be severe for governments. It’s right that Australian agencies are concerned about where this data has gone.
The official response to continued data breaches has been weak at best so it is good that suddenly agencies are having to face the consequences of the biggest one.
A widespread scare about insecure data may be what’s required to see governments start taking data security and citizen privacy seriously. That may be the positive side of the Yahoo! breach.