Giant Optus hack may swallow a quarter of SingTel profits

SINGAPORE: The cost for Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (SingTel) of making good customers exposed to one of Australia’s worst data breaches risks wiping out more than one quarter of its annual profit.

Last week, Optus, SingTel’s Australian mobile-phone business, revealed that hackers accessed the personal information of as many as 9.8 million customers, over one-third of the population.

Some 2.8 million of them lost details of passports, driver’s licences or government-issued medical identity cards, triggering concerns about large-scale identity fraud, according to the government.

One week after the hack was disclosed, the scale of the fallout, as well as the potential costs for Optus, are growing.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the company should pay for replacement passports, while Australia’s biggest states said Optus would pick up the tab for new driving permits.

The government also plans to tighten cybersecurity legislation because of the breach. Cyberattacks have become more common worldwide, exposing at least 11.43 billion customer records at several hundred entities in the space of more than a decade.

The Australian police are working with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation on last week’s Optus hack.

Home Affairs and Cyber Security Minister Clare O’Neil yesterday described the attack as “a big wakeup call” for corporate Australia.

The average cost incurred by a hacked company for each customer record lost is US$150 (RM697) to US$200 (RM929), said Ajay Unni, chief executive officer and founder of cybersecurity consultancy StickmanCyber.

That includes compensation, legal bills, and the cost of public relations campaigns.

“Some organisations end up spending double that,” he said. Applied only to the 2.8 million worst-affected Optus customers, that would equate to between US$420mil (RM1.95bil) and US$560mil (RM2.6bil).

Optus made a profit of US$1.44bil (RM6.7bil) in the year ended March 31. — Bloomberg

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