How to be unhackable

Beginners

This is an open letter to the Federal Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones.

Minister,

The cyber hacks on Optus and Medibank have justifiably freaked everyone out.

And as you know the 17 million records that have been stolen in the last month are a drop in the ocean compared to the number of data breaches that never make it into the media.

So today I’m writing to you with a simple solution.

It basically involves putting a ‘lock’ on every Australian’s private financial information – plus an ‘alert’ that lets us know anytime someone comes near our personal data.

In this month’s budget the Government put aside $5 million to investigate the hacks. However, setting my idea up won’t cost the Australian people (or the Government) a single cent.

All you’ll need is to muster up some political ticker, Minister.

Let me explain:

A criminal can hack a person’s ID and then apply for credit in their name.

When the bank gets the criminal’s application, their system automatically checks the customer’s credit file.

Importantly, the customer does not get an alert telling them the bank has checked their credit file.

The criminal can use this to their advantage, often clocking up dozens of credit card and personal loan applications as quickly as they can.

So, the most logical solution would be to put a ‘lock and alert’ system on our credit reports. That is, lock every credit file so no one can see it (without the customer’s consent) and send an immediate alert to the customer if someone tries to access it.

But there’s one problem (or three actually).

There are three credit bureaus in Australia (Equifax, Experian and illion) who keep credit files on practically every Australian adult.

They are owned by large investors, and last year they collectively made $521 million in revenue selling our private data to financial institutions, according to IBISWorld.

The problem is, putting a lock on our credit files would put a lock on their profits. They’re not going to let it happen, and they pay highly paid lobbyists to make sure the government doesn’t allow it.

Those lobbyists will tell you, Minister, that “it can’t be done”.

But it can. In fact, in America, the government has already forced credit bureaus to offer it. And in Australia the ‘lock and alert’ technology already exists, via an app called Credit Savvy.

So, my suggestion is that the government (i.e. YOU, Minister) should force the credit bureaus to automatically lock down our credit files and provide us with an alert service. This will block criminals while still allowing legitimate credit inquiries to be made.

The fact is, Minister, these credit bureaus are like Facebook. Our private data is the product they sell, and their customers will pay handsomely for that data. Let’s be honest: the credit bureaus’ only allegiance is to their shareholders.

Yet your allegiance is to the Australian people you have the honour of representing. So, we need you to stare down these billion-dollar companies and stand up for us.

As the Minister for Financial Services, I know your worst nightmare is that one of our banks will get hacked, which some analysts (like Standard & Poor’s) suggest is only a matter of time.

Right now you have the power to protect all Australians with a stroke of a pen.

Will you?

Tread Your Own Path!

P.S. I invited the Minister to respond (in 140 characters or less). Here is his response:

“Sounds good. We’ll take a look. Stephen”.

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