Australia investigates major medical data breach involving country’s largest online prescription service

Australia investigates major medical data breach involving country’s largest online prescription service

Police in Australia are investigating a “large scale” data breach of a major healthcare business following a ransomware attack on Thursday.

Melbourne-based company MediSecure’s website and hotline were offline following the breach, a statement from the electronic prescription service provider confirmed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

The company said: “MediSecure takes its legal and ethical obligations seriously and appreciates this information will be of concern.

“MediSecure is actively assisting the Australian Digital Health Agency and the national cyber security coordinator to manage the impacts of the incident.”

MediSecure, founded in 2009, mentioned in its statement that “while we continue to gather more information, early indicators suggest the incident originated from one of our third-party vendors”.

Australia’s cyber security minister Care O’Neil wrote on X that “updates will be provided in due course”. She added: “Speculation at this stage risks undermining significant work underway to support the company’s response.”

Earlier, Australia’s national cyber security coordinator, Lieutenant General Michelle McGuinness, told the media that an unnamed “commercial health information organisation” was the victim of the ransomware attack.

“I am working with agencies across the Australian government, states and territories to co-ordinate a whole-of-government response to this incident,” she said.

“The Australian Signals Directorate’s Australian Cyber Security Centre is aware of the incident and theAustralian Federal Police is investigating.”

No data has been leaked online yet. The latest data breach comes six months after hackers stole data from the network of St Vincent’s Health, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care provider.

In October 2022, Australia’s largest health insurer Medibank said that data belonging to its four million customers was compromised after a hacking attack. The hackers had demanded ransom and threatened to expose the diagnoses and treatments of Medibank’s high-profile customers.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson said he was seeking more information on the latest breach.

“There needs to be a thorough and transparent investigation, backed by clear and consistent communication to the public and profession. These are critical to maintaining community trust in the electronic systems that are now integral to the functioning of our health system,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sadiq Iqbal, cybersecurity adviser at Check Point Software Technologies, expressed concern during his interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. He said: “The healthcare industry continues to be a top target to organised cybercriminals due to the sensitive services it supplies.”

He added: “Due to the lack of budgets and reliance on antiquated out-of-support Windows devices that power many of the critical medical technology, healthcare providers will frequently be an easy target for sophisticated threat actors.”