Man up, AAPT, you lost customers' personal data

It's time for organisations that fail at data protection to own up to the depths of their incompetence.

It's time for organisations that fail at data protection to own up to the depths of their incompetence.

Australian telco AAPT has confirmed that it was hacked, presumably by persons working under the Anonymous brand, and CEO David Yuile's press statement is a prime example of the kind of PR-driven weasel word laden cop-out that simply has to stop.

Yuile's bizarrely all-caps piece of disingenuous spin refers to the data lost in the breach as "some AAPT Business customer data", as "historic" and with "limited personal customer information". The servers involved "have not been used or connected to AAPT for at least 12 months".

The first part of that is clearly intended to downplay the simple fact that the company's security procedures did actually fail.

It doesn't matter how much or little personal data was compromised, or how old it was -- unless we're talking before World War II or some such. AAPT has an obligation to protect all of it all of the time. Not just most of it most of the time—when they can manage it.

Besides, later in Yuile's statement he says that they're still to conduct the investigation into "exactly the type and extent of data that has been compromised". So how can we possibly trust that the "some" and "historic" and "limited" qualifiers even apply?

Sounds more like the PR operatives switching on the reputational damage control machine to me.

The second part is pure BS. Those servers were being "used" by AAPT, despite Yuile's claim. They were being used to store the very files that were stolen, and were presumably connected to Melbourne IT's network in AAPT's name. Otherwise why would Melbourne IT contact AAPT when they were hacked?

If AAPT weren't using those servers, there wouldn't have been a single byte of AAPT data on them, let alone 40GB of the stuff. They'd have been securely erased with at least seven passes of random data writes then allocated to another customer, locked in a storeroom, or crushed and buried in a landfill.

But none of this seems to have taken place. That isn't some minor procedural oversight. Protecting the integrity of data and data networks is a core competency for a telecommunications provider. This is a complete cock-up.

Yet despite the ritual appearances of "extremely concerned" and "utmost seriousness", Yuile's statement doesn't contain any actual evidence that he thinks the problem is even remotely serious, let alone unacceptable.

Some. Historical. Limited.

Nothing to see here.

The saddest fact in all this is that Yuile is far from being the only chief executive lacking a backbone.

Data was lost on his watch, but like all his predecessors he won't be taking responsibility. His resignation letter won't be hitting the chairman's desk, as it might have done in more honest times.

No, Yuile is just one more in the endless sorry parade of data breach apologist weasels.

Oh, one final thing.

Mr Yuile? I don't seem to be able to see the word "sorry" anywhere in your statement. I'm sure that's just some sort of transcription error, right?

Contact Stilgherrian at Stil@stilgherrian.com or follow him on Twitter at @stilgherrian

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