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Thousands of Donors Exposed: Major Data Breach Hits Australian Charities

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A Closer Look at Queensland’s Charity Data Breach

More than 70 Australian charities utilised the services of Brisbane-based Pareto Phone, a telemarketer. Among them, The Cancer Council, Canteen, and Fred Hollows Foundation were affected by a data breach, leading to personal information being leaked to the dark web.

How Was the Breach Possible?

Pareto Phone was targeted by cybercriminals in April, leading to the leak. The telemarketing company collected donations from supporters, retaining documents as old as nine years, potentially breaching the privacy act. One charity alleged Pareto Phone retained these without its knowledge.

What Information Was Leaked?

The breach led to the release of sensitive information including names, numbers, addresses, full names, date of birth, email addresses, and phone numbers, but not financial information. The following details have been confirmed by the affected charities:

  • Fred Hollows Foundation: 1,700 donors affected. The foundation expressed deep disappointment and stated it was not aware that its data was still held by Pareto Phone.
  • Canteen: 2,600 donors from 2020 and 2021 were affected, all of whom have been contacted.
  • Cancer Council: The exact number of affected donors has not yet been clarified, but the organisation stated it was a “very small number.” They also severed ties with Pareto Phone.

Practical Steps for Non-profits

What can non-profits learn from this incident? Here’s some actionable advice:

  • Regular Security Audits: Regular assessments of both internal and third-party systems can detect vulnerabilities.
  • Employee Training: Ensure that everyone involved is educated about cybersecurity practices and how to recognise threats.
  • Choose Partners Wisely: Thoroughly assess and monitor third-party partners to ensure they adhere to the highest security standards.
  • Understand Your Risks: Non-profits are often targeted in specific ways. Explore how Gridware can help you identify and address these vulnerabilities on our Non-profit Cyber Security Solutions

What to Do if You’re Affected by the Breach: A Quick Guide

If you’ve been contacted about the breach or suspect your data might have been compromised, it’s essential to act swiftly to protect yourself. Here’s a concise guide for those affected in Australia:

  • Change Passwords: Update your passwords for accounts containing personal or financial information.
  • Monitor Accounts: Keep an eye on bank and credit card statements for unauthorised transactions.
  • Alert Financial Institutions: Inform your bank and credit card companies of the breach to enhance monitoring.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Read about why 2FA is important here.
  • Review Credit Reports: Regularly check your credit reports with Australian agencies for fraudulent activity.
  • Consult Our Cyber Security Guide: For a detailed understanding tailored to Australian users, visit Gridware’s Cyber Security Guide.

Potential Risks Ahead

More data could be published as there were four months between the attack and the leak. We’ll keep a close eye on this situation and update our blog with new information as it arises. Stay tuned for the latest updates.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian Enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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