Our thoughts on the year ahead

At elevenM, we love shooting the breeze about all things work and play. We recently got together as a team to kick off the new year, share what we’d been up to and the thoughts inspiring us as we kick off 2019. Here’s a summary…

Early in the new year, under a beating sun at the Sydney Cricket Ground, our principal Arjun Ramachandran found himself thinking about cyber risk.

“Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara was piling on the runs and I realised – ‘I’m watching a masterclass in managing risk’. He’s not the fanciest or most talented batsman going around, but what Pujara has is total command over his own strengths and weaknesses. He knows when to be aggressive and when to let the ball go. In the face of complex external threats, I was struck by how much confidence comes from knowing your own capabilities and posture.”

A geeky thought to have at the cricket? No doubt. But professional parallels emerge when you least expect them. Particularly after a frantic year in which threats intensified, breaches got bigger, and major new privacy regulations came into force.

Is there privacy in the Home?

Far away from the cricket, our principal Melanie Marks was also having what she describes as a “summer quandary”. Like many people, Melanie this summer had her first extended experience of a virtual assistant (Google Home) over the break.

“These AI assistants are a lot of fun to engage with and offer endless trivia, convenience and integrated home entertainment without having to leave the comfort of the couch,” Melanie says. “However, it’s easy to forget they’re there and it’s hard to understand their collection practices, retention policies and deletion procedures (not to mention how they de-identify data, or the third parties they rely upon).”

Melanie has a challenge for Google in 2019: empower your virtual assistant to answer the question: “Hey Google – how long do you keep my data?” as quickly and clearly as it answers “How do you make an Old Fashioned?”.

Another of our principals and privacy stars Sheila Fitzpatrick has also been pondering the growing tension between new technologies and privacy. Sheila expects emerging technologies like AI and machine learning to keep pushing the boundaries of privacy rights in 2019.

“Many of these technologies have the ‘cool’ factor but do not embrace the fundamental right to privacy,” Sheila says. “They believe the more data they have to work with, the more they can expand the capabilities of their products without considering the negative impact on privacy rights.”

The consumer issue of our time

We expect to see the continued elevation of privacy as a public issue in 2019.  Watch for Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to get more involved in privacy, Melanie says. The ACCC foreshadowed in December via its preliminary report into digital platforms.

Business will also latch onto the idea of privacy as a core consumer issue, says our Head of Product Development Alistair Macleod. Some are already using it as a competitive differentiator, Alistair notes, pointing to manufacturers promoting privacy-enhancing features in new products and Apple’s hard-to-miss pro-privacy billboard at the CES conference just this week.

We’ll also see further international expansion of privacy laws in 2019, Sheila says. Particularly in Asia Pacific and Canada, where some requirements (such as around data localisation) will even exceed provisions under GDPR, widely considered a high watermark for privacy when introduced last May.

Cyber security regulations have their turn

But don’t forget cyber security regulation. Our principal Alan Ligertwood expects the introduction of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s new information security standard CPS 234 in July 2019 to have a significant impact.

CPS 234 applies to financial services companies and their suppliers and Alan predicts the standard’s shift to a “trust but verify” approach, in which policy and control frameworks are actually tested, could herald a broader shift to more substantive approach by regulators to oversight of regulatory and policy compliance.

There’s also a federal election in 2019. We’d be naïve not to expect jobs and national security to dominate the campaign, but the policy focus given to critical “new economy” issues like cyber security and privacy In the lead-up to the polls will be worth watching. In recent years cyber security as a portfolio has been shuffled around and dropped like a hot potato at ministerial level.

Will the Government that forms after the election – of whichever colour – show it more love and attention?

New age digital risks

At the very least, let’s hope cyber security agencies and services keep running. Ever dedicated, over the break Alan paid a visit to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s website – the US standards body that creates the respected Cybersecurity Framework – only to find it unavailable due the US government shutdown.

“It didn’t quite ruin my holiday, but it did get me thinking about unintended consequences and third party risk. A squabble over border wall funding has resulted in a global cyber security resource being taken offline indefinitely.”

It points to a bigger issue. Third parties and supply chains, and poor governance over them, will again be a major contributor to security and privacy risk this year, reckons Principal Matt Smith.

“The problem is proving too hard for people to manage correctly. Even companies with budgets which extend to managing supplier risk are often not able to get it right – too many suppliers and not enough money or capacity to perform adequate assurance.”

If the growing use of third parties demands that businesses re-think security, our Senior Project Manager Mike Wood sees the same trend in cloud adoption.

“Cloud is the de-facto way of running technology for most businesses.  Many are still transitioning but have traditional security thinking still in place.  A cloud transition must come with a fully thought through security mindset.”

Mike’s expecting to see even stronger uptake of controls like Cloud Access Security Brokers in 2019.

But is this the silver bullet?

We wonder if growing interest in cyber risk insurance in 2019 could be the catalyst for uplifted controls and governance across the economy. After all, organisations will need to have the right controls and processes in place in order to qualify for insurance in line with underwriting requirements.

But questions linger over the maturity of these underwriting methodologies, Alan notes.

“Organisations themselves find it extremely difficult to quantify and adequately mitigate cyber threats, yet insurance companies sell policies to hedge against such an incident.”

The likely lesson here is for organisations not to treat cyber insurance as a silver bullet. Instead, do the hard yards and prioritise a risk-based approach built on strong executive sponsorship, effective governance, and actively engaging your people in the journey.

It’s all about trust

If there was a common theme in our team’s readings and reflections after the break, it was probably over the intricacies of trust in the digital age.

When the waves stopped breaking on Manly beach, Principal Peter Quigley spent time following the work of Renee DiResta, who has published insightful research into the use of disinformation and malign narratives in social media. There’s growing awareness of how digital platforms are being used to sow distrust in society. In a similar vein, Arjun has been studying the work of Peter Singer, whose research into how social media is being weaponised could have insights for organisations wanting to use social media to enhance trust, particularly in the wake of a breach.

Alistair notes how some technology companies have begun to prioritise digital wellbeing. For example, new features in Android and iOS that help users manage their screen time – and thus minimise harm – reflect the potential for a more trusting, collaborative digital ecosystem.

At the end of the day, much of our work as a team goes towards helping organisations mitigate digital risk in order to increase digital trust – among customers, staff and partners. The challenges are aplenty but exciting, and we look forward to working on them with many of you in 2019.

End of year wrap

The year started with a meltdown. Literally.

New Year’s Eve hangovers had barely cleared when security researchers announced they had discovered security flaws that would impact “virtually every user of a personal computer”. “Happy new year” to you too. Dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre”, the flaws in popular computer processors would allow hackers to access sensitive information from memory – certainly no small thing. Chipmakers urgently released updates. Users were urged to patch. Fortunately, the sky didn’t fall in.

If all this was meant to jolt us into taking notice of data security and privacy in 2018 … well, that seemed unnecessary. With formidable new data protection regulations coming into force, many organisations were already stepping into this year with a much sharper focus on digital risk.

The first of these new regulatory regimes took effect in February, when Australia finally introduced mandatory data breach reporting. Under the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, overseen by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, applicable organisations must now disclose any breaches of personal information likely to result in serious harm.

In May, the world also welcomed the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Kind of hard to miss, with an onslaught of updated privacy policies flooding user inboxes from companies keen to show compliance.

The promise of GDPR is to increase consumers’ consent and control over their data and place a greater emphasis on transparency.  Its extra-territorial nature (GDPR applies to any organisation servicing customers based in Europe) meant companies all around the world worked fast to comply, updating privacy policies, implementing privacy by design and creating data breach response plans. A nice reward for these proactive companies was evidence that GDPR is emerging as a template for new privacy regulations around the world. GDPR-compliance gets you ahead of the game.

With these regimes in place, anticipation built around who would be first to test them out. For the local NDB scheme, the honour fell to PageUp. In May, the Australian HR service company detected an unknown attacker had gained access to job applicants’ personal details and usernames and passwords of PageUp employees.

It wasn’t the first breach reported under NDB but was arguably the first big one – not least because of who else it dragged into the fray. It was a veritable who’s who of big Aussie brands – Commonwealth Bank, Australia Post, Coles, Telstra and Jetstar, to name a few. For these PageUp clients, their own data had been caught up in a breach of a service provider, shining a bright light on what could be the security lesson of 2018: manage your supplier risks.

By July we were all bouncing off the walls. Commencement of the My Health Record (MHR) three month opt-out period heralded an almighty nationwide brouhaha. The scheme’s privacy provisions came under heavy fire, most particularly the fact the scheme was opt-out by default, loose provisions around law enforcement access to health records, and a lack of faith in how well-versed those accessing the records were in good privacy and security practices. Things unravelled so much that the Prime Minister had to step in, momentarily taking a break from more important national duties such as fighting those coming for his job.

Amendments to the MHR legislation were eventually passed (addressing some, but not all of these issues), but not before public trust in the project was severely tarnished. MHR stands as a stark lesson for any organisation delivering major projects and transformations – proactively managing the privacy and security risks is critical to success.

If not enough attention was given to data concerns in the design of MHR, security considerations thoroughly dominated the conversation about another national-level digital project – the build out of Australia’s 5G networks. After months of speculation, the Australian government in August banned Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from taking part in the 5G rollout, citing national security concerns. Despite multiple assurances from the company about its independence from the Chinese government and offers of greater oversight, Australia still said ‘no way’ to Huawei.

China responded frostily. Some now fear we’re in the early stages of a tech cold war in which retaliatory bans and invasive security provisions will be levelled at western businesses by China (where local cyber security laws should already be a concern for businesses with operations in China).

Putting aside the geopolitical ramifications, the sobering reminder for any business from the Huwaei ban is the heightened concern about supply chain risks. With supply chain attacks on the rise, managing vendor and third-party security risks requires the same energy as attending to risks in your own infrastructure.

Ask Facebook. A lax attitude towards its third-party partners brought the social media giant intense pain in 2018. The Cambridge Analytica scandal proved to be one of the most egregious misuses of data and abuses of user trust in recent memory, with the data of almost 90 million Facebook users harvested by a data mining company to influence elections. The global public reacted furiously. Many users would delete their Facebook accounts in anger. Schadenfreude enthusiasts had much to feast on when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s uncomfortably testified in front of the US Senate.

The social network would find itself under the pump on various privacy and security issues throughout 2018, including the millions of fake accounts on its platform, the high profile departure of security chief Alex Stamos and news of further data breaches.

But when it came to brands battling breaches, Facebook hardly went it alone in 2018. In the first full reporting quarter after the commencement of the NDB scheme, the OAIC received 242 data breach notifications, followed by 245 notifications for the subsequent quarter.

The scale of global data breaches has been eye-watering. Breaches involving Marriott International, Exactis, Aadhar and Quora all eclipsed 100 million affected customers.

With breaches on the rise, it becomes ever more important that businesses be well prepared to respond. The maxim that organisations will increasingly be judged not on the fact they had a breach, but on how they respond, grew strong legs this year.

But we needn’t succumb to defeatism. Passionate security and privacy communities continue to try to reduce the likelihood or impact of breaches and other cyber incidents. Technologies and solutions useful in mitigating common threats gained traction. For instance, multi-factor authentication had more moments in the sun this year, not least because we became more attuned to the flimsiness of relying on passwords alone (thanks Ye!). Security solutions supporting other key digital trends also continue to gain favour – tools like Cloud Access Security Brokers enjoyed strong momentum this year as businesses look to manage the risks of moving towards cloud.

Even finger-pointing was deployed in the fight against hackers. This year, the Australian government and its allies began to publicly attribute a number of major cyber campaigns to state-sponsored actors. A gentle step towards deterrence, the attributions signalled a more overt and more public pro-security posture from the Government. Regrettably, some of this good work may have been undone late in the year with the passage of an “encryption bill”, seen by many as weakening the security of the overall digital ecosystem and damaging to local technology companies.

In many ways, in 2018 we were given the chance to step into a more mature conversation about digital risk and the challenges of data protection, privacy and cyber security. Sensationalist FUD in earlier years about cyber-attacks or crippling GDPR compliance largely gave way to a more pragmatic acceptance of the likelihood of breaches, high public expectations and the need to be well prepared to respond and protect customers.

At a strategic level, a more mature and business-aligned approach is also evident. Both the Australian government and US governments introduced initiatives that emphasise the value of a risk-based approach to cyber security, which is also taking hold in the private sector. The discipline of cyber risk management is helping security executives better understand their security posture and have more engaging conversations with their boards.

All this progress, and we still have the grand promise that AI and blockchain will one day solve all our problems.  Maybe in 2019 ….

Till then, we wish you a happy festive season and a great new year.

From the team at elevenM.

Lessons on managing a data breach crisis (from an amateur conference organiser)

Tim de Sousa

It’s been a big year for elevenM – we’ve grown rapidly, taking on new people, developing new products and tackling new challenges.

One of my biggest challenges was actually an extracurricular one – the Annual Summit of the ANZ chapter of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (iappANZ). As specialist privacy and cyber security professionals, we have a close relationship with iappANZ, not to mention that one of our founders, Melanie Marks, is the current iappANZ President, and I’m on the Board. Which is how I ended up as the co-chair of this year’s Summit.

Law schools don’t really offer courses in event management, so I approached this completely, utterly blind. Ultimately, as a consequence of a great deal of hard work by many people, the Summit was a resounding success. But for me, the actual day was rather stressful and frantic as I tore around the place trying to do everything at once.

Basking in the relief of a completed job, it occurred to me that there were a lot of parallels between running a conference as a rank amateur and managing a data breach – high stakes, many moving parts, a lot of stakeholders, and limited time. I’ve dealt with literally hundreds of data breaches – they hold no fear for me. But this was entirely new territory. So, gin and tonic in hand, I jotted down a few of the more important takeaways.

  1. Bring in the pros, and do it early

I didn’t know anything about managing conferences. But we brought in some expert help – the good people at Essential Solutions. They’ve produced dozens of conferences. They understood all the likely friction points, had connections with suppliers and pre-existing relationships that they could leverage. This was a level of experience and expertise I didn’t have and couldn’t acquire quickly.

Having pros on the team meant they could help identify issues and problems while they were still molehills, and we were able to deal with them before they became mountains. This left me more able to focus on strategy and key decisions.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

On the day, there were a lot of small details and moving parts that had to be dealt with. Because I was frazzled and anxious, I insisted on managing all of this largely by myself so I could sure it got done – everything from making sure speakers got miked up, to timekeeping, to moving chairs on stage. This was, in fact, way too much for one person to do. Like data breach management, event management is a team sport.

I actually had numerous people throughout the day – iappANZ Board members – ask me if there was anything they could help with. And I smiled and thanked them and said we had it all under control. I think I did this largely on autopilot – my mind was so occupied with my lengthy to do list, I didn’t have the mental capacity to delegate. Which brings me to my next point…

  1. Plan ahead and allocate responsibilities

If you can’t think clearly enough in the thick of it to delegate, you need to do it before the crisis arrives. If I had known what would have to be done, asked for volunteers and allocated tasks in the lead up to the Summit, I would have been much better able to spread the workload.

A good data breach response plan can help you do all of this – it can include the contact details for pre-vetted expert support, set out the key steps of your organisation’s data breach response so you don’t have to scramble to work out what to do next in the heat of the moment, and clearly set out roles and responsibilities to avoid uncertainty over who should do what.

We weren’t able to do a dry run on the conference, but you can run simulated data breaches and other training to ensure that your breach response team understands the plan, and their part in it.

And when you’ve successfully managed the breach and the dust has settled, don’t forget to pour yourself a gin and tonic.

If you need help developing a data breach response process, or advice on managing a breach, you can call us at 1300 003 922 or email us at hello@elevenM.com.au.  

Introducing our free data breach notification tool

When we previously looked at the trends emerging from the mandatory notifiable data breaches scheme, we observed that organisations seem to be playing it safe and reporting when in doubt, possibly leading to overreporting.

We’re big supporters of mandatory notification, and we agree that when there’s doubt, it’s safer to report. But we also think it’s important that we all get better at understanding and managing data breaches, so that individuals and organisations don’t become overwhelmed by notifications.

That’s why we’ve prepared a free, fast and simple tool to help you consider all of the relevant matters when deciding whether a data breach needs to be notified.

Download here

Keep in mind that this is just a summary of relevant considerations – it’s not legal advice, and it only addresses Australian requirements. If your organisation handles personal information or personal data outside of Australia, you might need to consider the notification obligations in other jurisdictions.

Also remember that notification is just one aspect of a comprehensive data breach response plan. If your organisation handles personal information, you should consider adopting a holistic plan for identifying, mitigating and managing data breaches and other incidents.

Please let us know if you find this tool useful or if you any feedback or suggestions.


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The journey toward trust – Part 3: Trust through reputational management

This is the third and final article in a three-part series that explores the notion of trust in today’s digital economy, and how organisations can practically build trust. In part 1 we took a deeper look at the meaning and underlying principles of trust. Part two explored best practice approaches to using regulatory compliance to build trust.

In this piece, we look at the role of reputation management in building trust on privacy and security issues. 

Reputation management

The way an organisation manages its reputation is unsurprisingly tightly bound up with trust.

While there are many aspects to reputation management, an effective public response is one of, if not the most, critical requirements.

In the era of fast-paced digital media, a poorly managed communications response to a cyber or privacy incident can rapidly damage trust. With a vocal and influential community of highly informed security and privacy experts active on social media, corporate responses that don’t meet the mark get pulled apart very quickly.

Accordingly, a bad response produces significantly bad outcomes, including serious financial impacts, executive scalps, and broader repercussions like government and regulatory inquiries and class actions.

A google search will quickly uncover examples of organisations that mishandled their public response. Just in recent weeks we learned Uber will pay US $148m in fines over a 2016 breach, largely because of failures in how it went about disclosing the breach.

Typically, examples of poor public responses to breaches include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The organisation was slow to reveal the incident to customers (ie. not prioritising truth, safety and reliability)
  • The organisation was legalistic or defensive (ie. not prioritising the protection of customers)
  • The organisation pointed the finger at others (ie. not prioritising reliability or accountability)
  • The organisation provided incorrect or inadequate technical details (ie. not prioritising a show of competence)

As we can see courtesy of the analyses in the brackets, the reason public responses often unravel as they do is that they feature statements that violate the key principles of trust that we outlined in part one of this series.

Achieving a high-quality, trust-building response that reflects and positively communicates principles of trust is not necessarily easy, especially in the intensity of managing an incident.

An organisation’s best chance of getting things right is to build communications plans in advance that embed the right messages and behaviours.

Plans and messages will always need to be adapted to suit specific incidents, of course, but this proactive approach allows organisation to develop a foundation of clear, trust-building messages in a calmer context.

It’s equally critical to run exercises and simulations around these plans, to ensure the key staff are aware of their roles and are aligned to the objectives of a good public crisis response and that hiccups are addressed before a real crisis occurs.


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The journey toward trust – Part 2: Trust through regulatory compliance

This is the second article in a three-part series that explores the notion of trust in today’s digital economy, and how organisations can practically build trust. In part 1 we took a deeper look at what trust means, and uncovered some guiding principles organisations can work towards when seeking to build trust.

In this piece, we look at best practice approaches to using regulatory compliance to build trust.

Privacy laws and regulatory guidance provide a pretty good framework for doing the right thing when it comes to trusted privacy practices (otherwise known as, the proper collection, use and disclosure of personal information).

We are the first to advocate for a compliance-based framework.  Every entity bound by the Privacy Act 1988 and equivalent laws should be taking proactive steps to establish and maintain internal practices, procedures and systems that ensure compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles.  They should be able to demonstrate appropriate accountabilities, governance and resourcing.

But compliance alone won’t build trust.

For one, the majority of Australian businesses are not bound by the Privacy Act because they fall under its $3m threshold. This is one of several reasons why Australian regulation is considered inadequate by EU data protection standards.

Secondly, there is variability in the ways that entities operationalise privacy. The regulator has published guidance and tooling for the public sector to help create some common benchmarks and uplift maturity recognising that some entities are applying the bare minimum. No such guidance exists for the private sector – yet.

Consumer expectations are also higher than the law. It may once have been acceptable for businesses to use and share data to suit their own purposes whilst burying their notices in screeds of legalise. However, the furore over Facebook Cambridge / Analytica shows that sentiment has changed (and also raises a whole bucket of governance issues).  Similarly, increasingly global consumers expect to be protected by the high standards set by the GDPR and other stringent frameworks wherever they are, which include rights such as the right to be forgotten and the right to data portability.

Lastly, current compliance frameworks do not help organisations to determine what is ethical when it comes to using and repurposing personal information. In short, an organisation can comply with the Privacy Act and still fall into an ethical hole with its data uses.

Your organisation should be thinking about its approach to building and protecting trust through privacy frameworks.  Start with compliance, then seek to bolster weak spots with an ethical framework; a statement of boundaries to which your organisation should adhere. 


In the third and final part of this series, we detail how an organisation’s approach to reputation management for privacy and cyber security issues can build or damage trust.


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The journey toward trust – Part 1: Understanding trust

Join us for a three-part series that explores the notion of trust in today’s digital economy, and how organisations practically can build trust. We also focus on the role of regulatory compliance and reputation management in building trust, and outline best practice approaches.

Be-it users stepping away from the world’s biggest social media platform after repeated privacy scandals, a major airline’s share price plummeting after a large data breach, or Australia’s largest bank issuing a stronger commitment to a stronger focus on privacy and security in rebuilding its image – events in recent weeks provide a strong reminder of the fragility and critical importance of trust to businesses seeking success in the digital economy.

Bodies as illustrious as the World Economic Forum and OECD have written at length about the pivotal role of trust as a driving factor for success today.

But what does trust actually mean in the context of your organisation? And how do you practically go about building it?

At elevenM, we spend considerable time discussing and researching these questions from the perspectives of our skills and experiences across privacy, cyber security, risk, strategy and communications.

A good starting point for any organisation wanting to make trust a competitive differentiator is to gain a deeper understanding of what trust actually means, and specifically, what it means for it.

Trust is a layered concept, and different things are required in different contexts to build trust.

Some basic tenets of trust become obvious when we look to popular dictionaries. Ideas like safety, reliability, truth, competence and consistency stand out as fundamental principles.

Another way to learn what trust means in a practical sense is to look at why brands are trusted. For instance, the most recent Roy Morgan survey listed supermarket ALDI as the most trusted brand in Australia. Roy Morgan explains this is built on ALDI’s reputation for reliability and meeting customer needs.

Importantly, the dictionary definitions also emphasise an ethical aspect – trust is built by doing good and protecting customers from harm.

Digging a little deeper, we look to the work of trust expert and business lecturer Rachel Botsman, who describes trust as “a confident relationship with the unknown”.  This moves us into the digital space in which organisations operate today, and towards a more nuanced understanding.

We can infer that consumers want new digital experiences, and an important part of building trust is for organisations to innovate and help customers step into the novel and unknown, but with safety and confidence.

So, how do we implement these ideas about trust in a practical sense?

With these definitions in mind, organisations should ask themselves some practical and instructive questions that illuminate whether they are building trust.

  • Do customers feel their data is safe with you?
  • Can customers see that you seek to protect them from harm?
  • Are you accurate and transparent in your representations?
  • Do your behaviours, statements, products and services convey a sense of competence and consistency?
  • Do you meet expectations of your customers (and not just clear the bar set by regulators)?
  • Are you innovative and helping customers towards new experiences?

In part two of this series, we will explore how regulatory compliance can be used to build trust.


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You get an Aadhaar! You get an Aadhaar! Everybody gets an Aadhaar!

On 26 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India handed down a landmark ruling on the constitutionality of the biggest biometric identity system in the world, India’s Aadhaar system.

The Aadhaar was implemented in 2016, and has since acquired a billion registered users. It’s a 12-digit number issued to each resident of India, linked to biometrics including all ten fingerprints, facial photo and iris scans, and basic demographic data, all held in a central database. Since being implemented, it’s been turned to a variety of uses, including everything from proof of identification, tracking of government employee attendance, ration distribution and fraud reduction, entitlements for subsidies, and distribution of welfare benefits. The Aadhaar has quickly become mandatory for access to essential services such as bank accounts, mobile phone SIMs and passports.

Beyond banks and telcos, other private companies have also been eager to use to the Aadhaar, spurring concerns about private sector access to the database.

In 2012, a series of challenges were levelled at the Aadhaar, including that the Aadhaar violated constitutionally protected privacy rights.

In a mammoth 1448 page judgement, the Court made several key rulings:

  • The Court ruled that the Aadhaar system does not in itself violate the fundamental right to privacy. However, the Court specifically called out a need for a ‘robust data protection framework’ to ensure pricy rights are protected.
  • However, the Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for some purposes, including access to mobile phone services and bank accounts, as well as access to some government services, particularly education. Aadhaar-authentication will still be required for tax administration (this resolves some uncertainty from a previous ruling).
  • The private sector cannot demand that an Aadhaar be provided, and private usage of the Aadhaar database is unconstitutional unless expressly authorised by law.
  • The Court also specified that law enforcement access to Aadhaar data will require judicial approval, and any national security-based requests will require consultation with High Court justices (i.e., the highest court in the relevant Indian state).
  • Indian citizens must be able to file complaints regarding data breaches involving the Aadhaar; prior to this judgment, the ability to file complaints regarding violations of the Aadhaar Act was limited to the government authority administering the Aadhaar system, the Unique ID Authority of India.

The Aadhaar will continue to be required for many essential government services, including welfare benefits and ration distribution – s7 of the Aadhaar Act makes Aadhaar-based authentication a pre-condition for accessing “subsidy, benefits or services” by the government. This has been one of the key concerns of Aadhaar opponents – that access to essential government services shouldn’t be dependant on Aadhaar verification. There have been allegations that people have been denied rations due to ineffective implementation of Aadhaar verification, leading to deaths.

It’s also unclear whether information collected under provisions which have now been ruled as unconstitutional – for example, Aadhaar data collected by Indian banks and telcos – will need to be deleted.

As Australia moves towards linking siloed government databases and creating its own digital identity system, India’s experience with the Aadhaar offers many lessons. A digital identity system offers many potential benefits, but all technology is a double-edged sword. Obviously, Australia will need to ensure that any digital identity system is secure but, beyond that, that the Australian public trusts the system. To obtain that trust, Australian governments will need ensure the system and the uses of the digital identity are transparent and ethical – that the system will be used in the interests of the Australian public, in accordance with clear ethical frameworks. Those frameworks will need to be flexible enough to enable interfaces with the private sector to reap the full benefits of the system, but robust enough to ensure those uses are in the public interest. Law enforcement access to government databases remains a major concern for Australians, and will need to be addressed. It’s a tightrope, and it will need to be walked very carefully indeed.


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Don’t call me, I’ll call you

You’ve just pulled dinner out of the oven, the kids have been wrangled to the table, and you’re just about to sit down.

Suddenly, your miracle of domestic logistics is shattered by the klaxon  of your phone ringing. Juggling a hot plate of roast chicken and a small, wriggling child, you grab for the handset… only to be greeted by the forced enthusiasm of a long-suffering call centre worker who desperately wants you to tell you about simply fantastic savings on energy prices.

The Do Not Call Register has been in place since 2006. The DNCR Register allows Australians to place their phone number on a register indicating that they don’t wish to receive marketing calls or faxes, with fines applying for non-compliance.

The ACMA enables to organisations that want to conduct telemarketing campaigns subscribe to the Register and  ‘wash’ their calls lists against it. This helps organisation make sure they aren’t calling people who don’t want to hear from them.

Of course, that doesn’t help if you don’t bother to check the Register in the first place, like Lead My Way. Lead My Way received a record civil penalty of $285,600 today for making marketing calls to numbers on the DNCR Register. Lead My Way had actually subscribed to the DNCR Register, but for some reason hadn’t washed their call list against it. This led to numerous complaints to the ACMA, which commenced an investigation.

Lead My Way was calling people to test their interest in its clients’ products or services, then on selling that information as ‘leads’ – that is, as prospective customers. This kind of business model can also raise significant Privacy Act compliance issues. Do the people being called understand that their personal information is collected and will be sold? How are they notified of the collection (APP 5)? Have they consented to that use? Is that consent informed and valid? Is the sale of their personal information permissible (APP 6)? Are they able to opt out of receiving further marketing calls, and are those opt outs being respected (APP 7)?

Cutting corners on how you manage and use personal information may save you time and money in the short term. But, as Lead My Way discovered, in the long run it can create massive compliance risk, annoy your end users, and incur the wrath of the regulators. Were the (likely minuscule) savings of ignoring the DNCR Register worth a regulator investigation and the comprehensive trashing of Lead My Way’s brand?

Perhaps we should call them and ask.


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Nine steps to a successful privacy and cyber security capability uplift

Most organisations today understand the critical importance of cyber security and privacy protection to their business. Many are commencing major uplift programs, or at least considering how they should get started.

These projects inevitably carry high expectations because of what’s at stake. They’re also inherently complex and impact many parts of the organisation. Converting the effort and funding that goes into these projects into success and sustained improvement to business-as-usual practices is rarely straightforward.

Drawing on our collective experiences working on significant cyber security and privacy uplift programs across the globe, in a variety of industries, here’s what we believe are key elements to success.

1. Secure a clear executive mandate

Your uplift program is dealing with critical risks to your organisation. The changes you will seek to drive through these programs will require cooperation across may parts of your organisation and potentially partners and third parties too. A mandate and sponsorship from your executive is critical.

Think strategically about who else you need on-side, beyond your board and executive committee. Build an influence map and identify potential enablers and detractors, and engage early. Empower your program leadership team and business leadership from affected areas to make timely decisions and deliver their mandate.

2. Adopt a customer and human-centric approach

Uplift programs need to focus on people change as well as changes to processes and technology. Success in this space very often comes down to changing behaviours and ensuring the organisation has sufficient capacity to manage the new technology and process outputs (eg how to deal with incidents).

We therefore suggest that you adopt a customer and human-centric approach. Give serious time, attention and resourcing to areas including communications planning, organisational change management, stakeholder engagement, training and awareness.

3. Know the business value of what you are going to deliver and articulate it

An opaque or misaligned understanding of what a security or privacy program is meant to deliver is often the source of its undoing. It is crucial to ensure scope is clear and aligned to the executive mandate.

Define the value and benefits of your uplift program early, communicate them appropriately and find a way to demonstrate this value over time. Be sure to speak in terms the business understands, not just new technologies or capabilities you will roll-out for instance, what risks have you mitigated?

You can’t afford to be shy. Ramp up the PR to build recognition about your program and its value among staff, executive and board members. Think about branding.

4. Prioritise the foundational elements

If you’re in an organisation where security and privacy risks have been neglected, but now have a mandate for broad change, you can fall into the trap of trying to do too much at once.

Think of this as being your opportunity to get the groundwork in place for your future vision. Regardless of whether the foundational elements are technology or process related, most with tenure in your organisation know which of them need work. From our experience, those same people will also understand the importance of getting them right and in most cases would be willing to help you fix them.

As a friendly warning, don’t be lured down the path of purchasing expensive solutions without having the right groundwork in place. Most, if not all of these solutions rely on such foundations.

5. Deliver your uplift as a program

For the best results, deliver your uplift as a dedicated change program rather than through BAU.

Your program will of course need to work closely with BAU teams to ensure the sustained success of the program. Have clear and agreed criteria with those teams on the transition to BAU. Monitor BAU teams’ preparation and readiness as part of your program.

6. Introduce an efficient governance and decision making process

Robust and disciplined governance is critical. Involve key stakeholders, implement clear KPIs and methods of measurement, and create an efficient and responsive decision-making process to drive your program.

Governance can be light touch provided the right people are involved and the executive supports them. Ensure you limit the involvement of “passengers” on steering groups who aren’t able to contribute and make sure representatives from BAU are included

7. Have a ruthless focus on your strategic priorities

These programs operate in the context of a fast-moving threat and regulatory landscape. Things change rapidly and there will be unforeseen challenges.

It’s important to be brave and assured in holding to your strategic priorities. Avoid temptation to succumb to tactical “quick fixes” that solve short-term problems but bring long-term pain.

8. Build a high-performance culture and mindset for those delivering the program

These programs are hard but can be immensely satisfying and career-defining for those involved. Investing in the positivity, pride and engagement of your delivery team will pay immense dividends.

Seek to foster a high-performance culture, enthusiasm, tolerance and collaboration. Create an environment that is accepting of creativity and experimentation.

9. Be cognisant of the skills shortage and plan accordingly

While your project may be well funded, don’t be complacent about the difficulties accessing skilled people to achieve the goals of your project. Globally, the security and privacy industries continue to suffer severe short-ages in skilled professionals. Build these into your forecasts and expectations, and think laterally about the use of partners.


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Musings on the OAIC’s second Notifiable Data Breaches report

On 31 July, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) released its second Notifiable Data Breaches Quarterly Statistics Report.

This report covers the first full quarter since the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme (NDB scheme) began on 22 February 2018, and the OAIC has clearly put some work into building out the report with detailed stats and breakdowns. Let’s take a look.

Going up, up, up!

This quarter there were 242 notifications overall, noting that multiple notifications relating to the same incident (including the infamous PageUp breach) were counted as a single breach.

The OAIC’s month by month breakdown shows a steady increase in notifications by month, going from 55 notifications in March to 90 notifications in June. Overall, accounting for the partial quarter in the first report, we’ve seen a doubling in the rate of notifications.

However, there are a lot of factors that may be affecting the notification rate. Since February, many companies and agencies have implemented new processes to make sure they comply with the NDB scheme, and this may be driving more notifications. On the other hand, in our experience a lot of companies and agencies are still unsure about their notification obligations and when to notify, so they might be over reporting – notifying breaches that may not meet the ‘likely risk of serious harm’ threshold just to be sure that they are limiting their compliance risk.

At this early stage of the scheme, we think it’s premature to draw any conclusions on rising notification rates. The rate may change significantly as companies and agencies come to grips with their obligations and what does and doesn’t need to be reported.

Teach your children staff well

59% of breaches this quarter were identified as being caused by malicious or criminal attacks. The vast majority (68%) of attacks were cyber incidents and, of those, over three quarters related to lost or stolen credentials. This includes attacks based on phishing, malware, and social engineering. Brute force attacks also featured significantly.

We think that the obvious conclusion here is that there’s an opportunity to significantly reduce the attack surface by training your staff to better protect their credentials. For example, teach them how to recognise phishing attempts, run drills, and enforce regular password changes.

There are also some system issues that could be addressed, such as multi-factor authentication, enforcing complex password requirements, and implementing rate limiting on credential submissions to prevent brute force attacks.

To err is human

Human error accounted for 36% of breaches this quarter. It was the leading cause in the first quarterly report, but again, there are a number of factors that could have caused this shift.

Notably, over half of the breaches caused by human error were scenarios in which personal information was sent to the wrong person – by email, mail, post, messenger pigeon or what have you, but especially email (29 notifications). Again, this suggests a prime opportunity to reduce your risk by training your staff. For example, it appears that at least 7 people this quarter didn’t know (or forgot) how to use the BCC/Blind Carbon Copy function in their email.

People make mistakes. And we know this, so it’s a known risk. We should be designing processes and systems to limit that risk, such as systems to prevent mistakes in addressing.

Doctors and bankers and super, oh my!

Much ink has been spilt over information governance in the health and finance sectors recently, and those sectors accounted for more notifications than any other this quarter (49 and 36 notifications respectively). These are pretty massive industry sectors – healthcare alone accounts for 13.5% of jobs in Australia – so scale is likely affecting the high number of notifications. Anyway, the OAIC has helpfully provided industry level breakdowns for each of them.

In the finance sector (including superannuation providers), human error accounted for 50% of all breaches, and malicious attacks for 47%. Interestingly, in the finance sector almost all the malicious attacks were based on lost or stolen credentials, so we’re back to staff training as a key step to reduce risk.

Bucking the trend, human error accounted for almost two thirds of breaches in the health sector – clearly there’s some work to be done in that sector in terms of processes and staff training. Of the breaches caused by the malicious attacks, 45% were theft of physical documents or devices. This isn’t particularly surprising, as it can be challenging for small medical practices that make up a large part of the sector to provide high levels of physical security. It’s important to note that these notifications only came from private health care providers – public providers are covered under state-based privacy legislation. Also, these statistics don’t cover notifications relating to the My Health Records system – the OAIC reports on those numbers separately in its annual report. So these stats don’t offer a full picture of the Australian health industry as a whole.

All in all, this quarter’s NDB scheme report contains some interesting insights, but as agencies and organisations become more familiar with the scheme (and continue to build their privacy maturity), we may see things shift a bit. Only time will tell.


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GDPR is here

If the recent flurry of emails from organisations sending privacy policy updates didn’t tip you off, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) commences today.

Reading every one of those emails (something even those of us in the privacy world struggle with), might give you the impression that there’s a standard approach to GDPR compliance. But the truth is that how your organisation has (hopefully) prepared for GDPR, and how it will continue to improve its privacy practices, is highly variable.

We’ve covered the GDPR at length on this blog, and a collection of links to our various articles is at the bottom of this post– but first, we’d like to set out a few thoughts on what the GDPR’s commencement means in practice.

Remember the principles

If the GDPR applies to your organisation, you’ve presumably taken steps to prepare for the requirements that apply under the new privacy regime. Among these are new requirements relating to data breach notification, as well as new rights and freedoms for individuals whose personal data you may be processing.

One aspect of GDPR that has received plenty of attention is the new penalties, which can be up to 4% of an organisation’s annual turnover, or 20 million Euros (whichever is greater). Certainly, those numbers have been very effective in scaring plenty of people, and they may cause you to check once again whether your organisation fully meets the new requirements under the GDPR.

However, the reality isn’t quite so straightforward (or scary). Much of the GDPR is principles-based, meaning that there isn’t always a single way to comply with the law – you need to take account of your organisation’s circumstances and the types of personal data it processes to understand where you stand in relation to GDPR’s requirements.

Although we don’t expect EU supervisory authorities to provide an enforcement ‘grace period’, we’re also of the view that enforcement activities will ramp up gradually. The authorities understand that, for many organisations, GDPR compliance is a journey. Those organisations that can demonstrate they’ve taken every reasonable step to prepare for GDPR, and which have a plan for continuing to improve their privacy compliance and risk programs, will be far better placed than those that have done little or nothing to get ready for the new law.

If your organisation still has work to do to comply with the GDPR, or you want to continue improving your organisation’s compliance and risk program (and there is always more to do!), there is plenty of help available to help you navigate GDPR and understand how it applies to your organisation.

Our previous coverage of the GDPR

Tim compares Australia’s Privacy Act with the GDPR

Melanie spoke to Bloomberg about driving competitive advantage from GDPR compliance

Head to Head: the GDPR and the Australian Privacy Principles (Part 1 and Part 2)

A Lesson in Data Privacy: You Can’t Cram for GDPR

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: Would the GDPR have helped?

5 things you need to know about GDPR’s Data Protection Officer requirement


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