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ABC hack a lesson for other companies: security experts

Hamish Barwick | March 4, 2013
The data breach of 49,500 audience usernames and hashed versions of passwords from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website Making Australia Happy should serve as a lesson for other companies that deal with personal information, according to security industry experts.

The data breach of 49,500 audience usernames and hashed versions of passwords from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website Making Australia Happy should serve as a lesson for other companies that deal with personal information, according to security industry experts.

A hacker going by the Twitter handle of Phr0zenMyst claimed ownership of the ABC attack and said it was a response to the recent appearance on ABC's Lateline program of right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

"The aim of the hack was to hurt ABC for allowing Wilders to spread hate, apologies for any harm caused to others," tweeted PhrOzenMyst this week.

Senetas CEO Andrew Wilson said the main lesson from the ABC data breach is that companies can never expect data protection to be 100 per cent effective so all sensitive data should be encrypted.

"That gives the ABC and others a defence assurance that when the inevitable happens, no harm will be done because the data is meaningless," he said.

According to Wilson, companies should use advanced encryption standard (AES) 128, which if properly implemented, could mean it would take up to 149 trillion years to decrypt data using today's most powerful computers.

"Australian TV networks also need to adopt a duty of care approach to the data rather than the traditional risk management approach," he said.

"Duty of care makes them conscious of the ongoing damage such a breach causes their viewers and not just the momentary embarrassment the media company suffers."

Trend Micro A/NZ strategic products senior manager Adam Biviano said companies such as the ABC need to carefully consider what information they are collecting from customers and apply appropriate controls.

He said that the ABC data breach exposed details including the longitude and latitude locations of viewers in Australia.

"Organisations should also do penetration tests by providing security people with the contents of the database and see what private information they can reveal," he said.

Security and the media

Wilson disagreed that the ABC attack may deter news organisations in Australia from interviewing controversial figures such as Geert Wilders and said networks should tighten their IT security instead.

"For media networks, any business initiative or story that involves a controversial figure or topic that might stir up attacks of any type should be classified as a potential security risk," he said.

Just like workplace health and safety, IT risk mitigation foundations should be set in place to manage controversial broadcasts such as additional manpower to monitor systems and use of encryption.

"People often rationalise their actions by claiming a moral high ground but those who conduct cyber crimes are just that, criminals and vandals," Wilson said.

 

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