Hacking scourge widens in Australia, data of 223,000 patients stolen in strike at pathology


Hackers have targeted one of Australia’s largest pathology providers and stolen medical data of thousands of patients, the second such breach in the country within two weeks, deepening fears about how companies collect and secure sensitive information of their customers, reported Reuters.

The revelation on Thursday further extends the wave of hackings that have shaken the country’s biggest companies and shares of Australian Clinical Labs Ltd tanked to their lowest point since listing last year. A day earlier, Australia’s No. 1 health insurer Medibank Private Ltd had reported that hackers had stolen personal data of its all four million customers.

ACL said on Thursday that it first learnt of the unauthorised access to the IT system of its pathology unit, Medlab, in February and received advice that no information was compromised, but the government cybersecurity agency notified it in June that its data had been posted on the dark web, a system of websites only accessible through certain browsers.

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ACL then hired forensic analysts to study the “complex and unstructured” data-set found there and gathered that data of 223,000 patients had been exposed in the breach, and it included the medical and health records of about 18,000 people, said the Reuters report.

“There was no ransom demand or evidence of data misuse, but we recognise the concern and inconvenience this incident may cause to those who have used Medlab’s services and have taken steps to identify individuals affected,” ACL Chief Executive Officer Melinda McGrath said in a statement.

Companies in Australia have been bracing since Sept. 22, when the country’s second-largest telco, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd-owned Optus, disclosed a security breach and theft of personal data of nearly 10 million customer accounts, equivalent to 40% of the country’s population.

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Grocery chain Woolworths Group Ltd also shared that the data of millions of customers using its bargain shopping website had been compromised. Several smaller and unlisted companies also revealed data breaches by hackers, prompting lawyers to question the amount of data that private enterprises should collect, and store for how long.

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