Reports have emerged that a journalist from The Guardian Australia was able to purchase his own Medicare details from a black market trader on the dark web.
It is believed that the trader came to obtain access to the details by exploiting a vulnerability in the system.
In a statement, the Australian Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said that he takes The Guardian report seriously, and is prompting the government to launch an investigation into the matter.
However, Tudge further stated that the investigative journalist in question was only able to gain a Medicare card number and that he did not gain access to any personal health records in the system.
When the journalist began to make the purchase on the dark web, he was instructed by the seller to provide his name and date of birth so that he could get the Medicare card number.
Tudge also said that his team had assured him that the Medicare information made available to the journalist by the dark web seller did not contain enough details to allow access to any sensitive health records.
Although the only information that the seller claimed to offer was only the Medicare card number, he nonetheless said that any obvious illegal access to healthcare data is a cause for concern.
Speaking in response to the revelations, the Australian Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek conveyed her concerns in a statement terming the entire situation as a very serious breach to the privacy of Australians.
She also demanded that the government make public when it first became aware of the data breach and how many Australians have been affected by it thus far.
But Tudge said there was no evidence to indicate any wide-scale security breach in his department, adding that his department had found out that only a small number of the Australian population had been affected by the reported data breach.
He declined to confirm the number of those affected but stated that his department would contact them all.
The minister further stated that, according to the Department of Human Services’ chief of information officer, the data breach was more likely to have occurred as a result of ordinary criminal activity and as such should not be seen as any indication of a cyber security breach into their systems.
This explanation was however seen by the opposition leader as an effort by the minister to downplay the whole situation.
Tudge declined to comment on his department’s cyber operations but confirmed that investigations into illegal dark web activities are conducted continuously.
He said that the Department of Human Services constantly receives assurance and advice on its cyber security from the Australian Signals Directorate, which is the country’s highest cyber security agency.
The dark web is a part of the World Wide Web that is hidden to most internet users. None of the content that is published on the dark web is indexed by any search engine.
This means that no information posted onto dark websites will appear in the search results of any major search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
This anonymity allows users to stay hidden and untraceable every time they’re online.
It has become a safe haven for individuals or groups that want to engage in crime or purchase black market goods.
According to a report published by The Guardian on the investigation into the black market trade of Australian healthcare information, dark web traders have priced the Medicare card details at about 0.0089 Bitcoins a piece.
This is equivalent to about AUD 30.
An illegal dark web market that provides accurate Medicare numbers for sale can cause many security concerns to the owners of the cards.
Such numbers can enable organized criminal groups to generate fake Medicare cards and carry out identity fraud.
The fake cards could even be used to buy illegal drugs or other types of goods.