Police launch Operation Guardian to protect Optus customers from identity theft

Australian Federal Police have launched Operation Guardian to protect Optus customers at high risk of identity theft after sensitive data was released online following a massive cyberattack.

AFP Assistant Commissioner of Cyber Command Justine Gough said the operation’s focus would be the 10,000 people who had up to 100 points of ID released online by the purported hacker earlier this week.

An estimated 10,000 Optus customers are at high risk of identity theft after their data was leaked by a purported hacker.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Optus has admitted that almost 37,000 Medicare numbers were exposed as part of the hack revealed last week that affected about 10 million people.

Gough said police across all state and territory jurisdictions were working together to identify the 10,000 individuals at high risk of identity fraud so they could receive extra protections.

She said police were scouring online forums and the dark web for other criminals trying to exploit the personal information released online.

Police are also working with banks and other financial service providers to detect criminal activity associated with the data breach.

Gough said other criminals might have gained access to customer data posted online even though it had since been taken down.

“Australian law enforcement agencies are working together and with industry partners to actively monitor any subsequent misuse of the data,” she said.

“Australian law enforcement are aware of current criminal activity attempting to target and exploit impacted Optus customers that have been the subject of this data breach.”

The operation should send a clear warning to cybercriminals that police were working to protect customers from the hack, she said.

A separate police effort involving overseas agencies such as the FBI, known as Operation Hurricane, is seeking to identify the hacker or hackers behind the attack and hold them responsible.

Gough said the police investigation into the Optus data breach would be “long and complex”.

She added Australians “can be assured that our very clever and dedicated cyber investigators are focused on delivering justice for those whose personal information has been compromised”.

Gough said the hacker had used “obfuscation techniques” to hide their identity.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said on Thursday the hacker responsible for the Optus attack appeared to be a “kid in a garage” rather than a sophisticated state actor.

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