Key points:

  • Australia will soon introduce strict penalties for companies that cannot safeguard customer data
  • The move to introduce such penalties comes shortly after two huge cybersecurity breaches left millions of customers vulnerable to cybercriminals
  • As per the new rules, the penalties for breaches of the Privacy Act are likely to increase from $1.4 million to $32 million

Australia is set to revamp its digital sector and introduce strict policies to safeguard the personal information of its citizens. The country is set to flag new corporate penalties shortly after two major cybersecurity breaches left millions vulnerable to cyber criminals. 

The penalties for serious breaches of the Privacy Act are likely to increase from $1.4 million to $32 million in the upcoming week according to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. 

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What are the new penalties for serious breaches?

The new amendments to the Privacy Act are likely to be introduced in the upcoming week according to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. The penalties for serious breaches will increase from $1.4 million to $32 million, ensuring companies put in more effort to safeguard customer data. 

If a company’s revenue exceeds $32 million during the specified time, it may additionally be subject to a punishment equal to 30% of that amount if they are guilty. According to Dreyfus, large firms could face penalties up to hundreds of millions of dollars – a substantial rise from the previous penalties.” The new penalties are intended to provoke thought in businesses and serve as a deterrent to encourage businesses to safeguard the personal data of Australian citizens. 

Why is the Australian government taking this approach?

Since the last time, the Parliament sat in Australia, cybercriminals have stolen personal data from over 9.8 million Optus customers. Optus is Australia’s second-largest telecommunications carrier. As a result, around one-third of the entire Australian population is at a heightened risk of fraud and identity theft. 

Anonymous hackers claimed to have stolen 200 gigabytes of customer information, including medical diagnoses and treatments from Medibank – Australia’s largest health insurer. The hackers also demanded ransom from the health insurer this week. Medibank has a huge customer base of around 3.7 million in Australia. According to the company, the hackers have proven that they have the personal information of at least 100 people. According to reports, the hackers have threatened to reveal the medical histories of prominent Medibank clients.

Both breaches, according to Dreyfus, demonstrated that “current measures are inadequate.”

The government is concerned that businesses are holding on to excessive amounts of customer data for too long hoping to make money out of it besides failing to protect personal information.

The Australian government hopes that the new amendments would put an end to such cyber attacks and create a safer online ecosystem for every Australian customer in the future. 

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