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Optus to pay for new passports

Optus has agreed to pay for replacement passports following a massive data breach, the prime minister says.

September 30, 2022
By Tess Ikonomou and Maeve Bannister
30 September 2022

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced Optus has agreed to cover the costs for replacement passports following a massive data breach.

Mr Albanese confirmed the telco will pay during a press conference following a national cabinet meeting on Friday. 

“Optus have responded to my request that I made in parliament and that Senator Wong made in writing to Optus and they will cover the costs to replace affected customers’ passports. It’s entirely appropriate,” he said. 

Mr Albanese said he found it “extraordinary that the federal opposition called upon taxpayers to foot the bill”.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong wrote to Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin earlier this week, asking the telco to cover the cost of replacing the sensitive documents.

Meanwhile, a new police task force has been set up to help protect customers affected by the Optus data breach from identity theft. 

Operation Guardian, launched by Australian Federal Police in collaboration with state and territory forces, will help impacted customers and safeguard Australians against cybercrime. 

The more than 10,000 people whose identity documents are known to have been released during the breach are being prioritised by the task force to ensure they do not become victims of financial fraud. 

AFP Assistant Commissioner of Cyber Command Justine Gough said investigators would deliver justice for those whose personal information had been compromised. 

But she admitted investigators were still determining exactly how many people were affected.

“Customers affected by the breach will receive multi-jurisdictional and multi-layered protection from identity crime and financial fraud,” she told reporters in Canberra on Friday. 

Guardian will focus on monitoring online forums and other internet and dark web sites for criminals trying to exploit the identity information.

“The AFP and law enforcement across Australia are taking this crime very seriously,” Ms Gough said.

“Cybercrime is the break-and-enter of the 21st century and we encourage all Australians to be extra vigilant about their online security at this time.” 

She urged Australians to report suspicious activity related to bank accounts, not click on links in text messages and be wary of phone calls from people claiming to be Optus staff. 

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has criticised the government for not introducing new privacy legislation to parliament following the Optus hack. 

He said Australians should be “white hot with anger” after their sensitive information was stolen. 

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus earlier this week said the government was seeking to put legislation to the lower house by year’s end. 

But this was slammed as being too slow by the coalition.

“It should have been in the parliament this week, the government was aware of this problem,” he told Nine on Friday. 

“I think 10 million Australians should be white hot with anger that their information was compromised and the home affairs minister went missing for three days.”

The telco is also being pressured to cover the cost of replacement passports and other documents from which details were stripped. 

The opposition has called for the government to unfreeze “critical” cyber security funding, which is being reviewed along with other industry grants given by the former Morrison government.

More than $60 million in cyber security training grants have been withheld.

Opposition industry spokeswoman Sussan Ley said delaying funding from the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund was inexcusable.

“Labor have already been forced to retract unfounded political attacks on other initiatives which supported some of our most critical sectors to boost sovereign capability – and now this failure to support our cyber security industry has left our country weaker,” she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles labelled the breach a “wake-up call” for the corporate sector.

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