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Data breach attack on Half of Australia and New Zealand

Australia is in peril. Just as the nation emerged from Medibank and Optus cyber attacks, a bigger attack has made global headlines- Latitude Financial Cyber Attack.

And as UNSW Business School associate professor Rob Nicholls describes it- this might be one of the largest data thefts in Australian History. 

The last time something of this magnitude was noticed was in May 2019 in the “Canva cyber attack”, impacting 139 million users. 

This time, Latitude financial is under attack. Latitude Financial is an Australia-based financing company that deals in financing loans and credit to customers shopping in Australia and New Zealand. 

Data breach attack on Half of Australia and New Zealand

Today, out of a combined population of 31 million in Australia and New Zealand, more than 14 million are under attack. 

The details of Latitude financial's attack are coming riding on a turtle. In the company’s initial report from Mid-March, the depth of the theft was partially revealed. Then, the company only mentioned the data theft of 7.9 million driver’s licenses and 35,000 passports. But, The Guardian reported that additional 6.1 million old customers’ data was also exposed. And as the scale of the heist is uncovered slowly, the numbers might jump even further. 

On Monday, Latitude financial revealed that 14 million customer records were exposed. The details, including the customers’ names, passport details, addresses and contact numbers of customers, as old as 2005, were all exposed to criminals. 

In an apologetic statement, Latitude’s chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, stated that he regretted the occurrence of such unfortunate events. Further assuring the customers about minimizing the damage, Fahour offered to reimburse the cost of replacing ID documents.  

Uncovering the cyber attack:

The attack was first reported in mid-march. Latitude Financial reported that about 7.9 million driver’s license details and 53,000 passports from recent users of Australia and New Zealand were exposed to the attack. 

Although the company detected dubious activity during the attack, it could only respond after the attackers got hold of login credentials.

What to do if you are the victim of Latitude Financial Fraud?

If you are one of the customers of latitude Financial, you might soon receive a letter from the company, if not already received. The company, in a statement, revealed that it is writing an informative letter to all the victims of the fraud.

Per the statement, the letter will outline the stolen details and a further course of action.

Furthermore, all the company's issued credit cards have also been operating since March 23rd. So customers can access the credit cards as usual.

History of Cybercrimes in Australia:

This is, however, not the first cybercrime of this magnitude that has hit Australia. Lately, Australia is at the forefront of Cyberattacks, recording one cybercrime every eight minutes, the Australian Government Cyber Security cell revealed.

The last one was reported just five months back on Medibank in November. Before that, Optus- an Australian telecommunication company- was attacked in September last year, breaching the privacy of nearly 10 million customers.

As per the latest cyber threat report of 2021-22 by ACSC, Australia reported 76,000 cyber attacks- 13% higher than the previous year- reported in the past financial year. 

Global figures reflect the same results:

The global cyber attack rate is up by 38% in 2022 compared to 2021, research by Check Point research (CPR) revealed. 

As a result, more than 60% of small-scale businesses shut down within six months of their exposure to cyber crimes.

Financing services witnessed 4th highest spike rate in cyber attacks:

Apart from the shocking rise in the number of cyber crimes globally, the highest spike rate was noticed in Healthcare (+73%), Retail and wholesale (+66%), Hospitality (+60%) and banking and Financing (+52%) than in 2021, as indicated in the graph.

Although data security threats might arise for various reasons, the threats of data theft rise proportionally to businesses that incorporate technology. 

Large companies have been at the forefront of technological spread, with 80% of large firms adopting smart business technologies. This is one of the major reasons for spiking cyber crimes.

Despite financial services facing serious spike, not all the attacks are made public. 

Messing with customer’s trust:

As per the Research citing by the University of Wollongong’s Prof Alex Frino, companies did not initially reveal 11 out of 36 cybercrimes encountered in the past decade. Rather were revealed by the media. 

DataProt forecasted cybercrimes to be worth 76 trillion dollars’ problem. And you will be surprised to know that only 10-12% of the total cyber attacks are reported to each other; others are swept under the rug. 

Financial services invest below the global average in Cyber Security:

On average, enterprises spent only 9.9% of their IT budget on cyber security, data by venture beat revealed. And financial services, which rank 4th among the most prone industries for cyber threats, invested below the global cyber security average investment.

The data is sourced from IANS & Artico, Security Budget Benchmark Summary Report, 2022. The data show that cyber security is not the topmost priority of financial services, despite being susceptible to cyber threats. 

Concluding thoughts:

As technology merges with businesses, the chances of cyber attacks rise. The same is, however, true for data protection. Hence, financial services and all businesses should invest in cyber security. 
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