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Alarm at "darknet" sale of Medicare details

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The Federal Government has asked police to investigate the illegal sale of personal Medicare details on the “darknet”.

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An investigation by The Guardian has revealed a trader is selling Medicare card details for less than $30 online.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has asked federal authorities including Australian Federal Police to pursue the alleged crime by someone exploiting a vulnerability in the system.

“The security of personal data is an extremely serious matter,” Tudge said in a statement today.

Tudge said he’d been assured the information obtained was “not sufficient” to access personal health records.

“The only information claimed to be supplied by the site was the Medicare card number,” he said.

But there are fears hackers have exploited a vulnerability in the government’s systems and could use the data for criminal purposes such as identity fraud.

Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek labelled the government’s response as “weak”.

“It is absolutely critical that the government explain – today, immediately – how many records have been breached, when did the government find out that this security risk was occurring,” she told reporters in Melbourne.

“We have seen weak statements that don’t go to the key issues about how many records, how long they have been available, when the government knew and what have they done.”

It’s not the first time cyber security issues have been on the Human Services Department’s radar.

“Investigations into activities on the dark web occur continually,” Tudge said.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the government took “extraordinarily seriously” the data it collected on individuals.

“It’s very alarming to me if any of that data is finding its way into hands that it shouldn’t be,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“This is going to be an ongoing issue as more and more of our information ultimately is collected and stored online. Governments are going to have to be much better at protecting that data.”

Sukkar said he understood concerns people held over the “extremely concerning” reports of the breach.

“All I can do is assure you that we will do absolutely everything possible to protect that data,” he said.

“If that means more work and more upgrades to our system, then so be it.”

The Guardian says it verified the darknet vendor’s claims by requesting the data of a staff member.

It says the method the seller uses to obtain the details is unknown.

– with AAP

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