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Cyber attack hits Australia's second-largest telco; data of 10mn customers leaked

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Sensitive information about almost 10 million Australian telecoms subscribers may have been compromised by a substantial hack of the country's second-largest provider. (Photo by Reuters)

Optus, Australia's second-largest telecommunications company, has been hit by a massive cyber-attack, with the personal information of around 10 million customers stolen, including names, dates of birth, addresses, and contact details.

Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said on Friday that a “sophisticated” hacker was able to gain access to the data of more than 9.8 million Australian users, equivalent to 40 percent of Australia's population.

“We are devastated to discover that we have been subject to a cyber-attack that has resulted in the disclosure of our customers’ personal information to someone who shouldn’t see it,” Rosmarin said.

“As soon as we knew, we took action to block the attack and began an immediate investigation. While not everyone may be affected and our investigation is not yet complete, we want all of our customers to be aware of what has happened as soon as possible so that they can increase their vigilance.

“We are very sorry and understand customers will be concerned. Please be assured that we are working hard, and engaging with all the relevant authorities and organizations, to help safeguard our customers as much as possible.

“Optus has also notified key financial institutions about this matter."

The information that fell into the hands of the hackers, believed to be working for a criminal or state-sponsored organization, included names and personal details, phone numbers, and email addresses, as well as some driver's licenses and passport numbers.

An Australian subsidiary of Singapore-based Singtel, Optus is the second-largest wireless carrier in Australia.

It is not yet clear whether the cyber attack was carried out by a government agency or a criminal group, but according to Rosmarin, no ransom has been demanded at this time.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned all those affected by this cyber attack that they may be affected by identity theft.

“Optus customers should take immediate steps to secure all of their accounts, particularly their bank and financial accounts. You should also monitor for unusual activity on your accounts and watch out for contact by scammers,” the watchdog said.

As a major telecommunications company, Optus has always been vulnerable to cyberattacks by hackers, and officials said it routinely fended off attempts to break into its systems.

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