Australians' Medicare details up for sale on darknet

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A hooded man holds a laptop computer as blue screen with an exclamation mark is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. Reuters/Kacper Pempel

Australians' personal Medicare details are allegedly being accessed and sold on an auction site for illegal products. The Australian Federal Police is already investigating the reports.

An online trader is offering Medicare card details for less than $30 each, according to Guardian Australia. The news outlet has conducted an investigation that revealed a darknet vendor claiming to have obtained access to every Australian’s Medicare card details.

"Leave the first and last name, and DOB of any Australian citizen, and you will receive their Medicare patient details in full," the listing reads. It is likely that Medicare records are being accessed in real time.

The alleged breach was labelled an "internet catastrophe,” suggesting a security threat in the health system. Medicare card details were not supposed to be publicly accessible as they can be used by organised crime groups to create fake physical Medicare cards with legitimate information. These fake cards can then be utilised for identification fraud.

Fake identification cards can also be utilised by drug syndicates in purchasing goods. Worst, they can be used to lease or buy property or cars, apply for a passport, get a credit card or start an illegal business.

Furthermore, Medicare card details can be used to defraud the government of Medicare rebates. A group had already been targeted by a police strike force in 2015 for using Medicare card details to direct rebate payments into fraudulent bank accounts.

As for darknet auction services, they are more difficult to track. Organised crime groups usually use these features because they are not searchable or indexed like other parts of the Internet.

At least 75 Australians’ Medicare card details have been sold since October 2016. Details that were already sold were described as “marks.”

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge assured that the government is taking the matter seriously. He said in a statement that any authorised access to Medicare card numbers was "of great concern" and his department is also doing its own probe. “The government has an ongoing commitment to prioritise cyber security and is constantly working to further improve our capability,” the Sydney Morning Herald quotes him as saying. The main agency that manages Medicare is the Department of Human Services, although the Department of Health would likely also have access to Medicare card records.

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