Vodafone - one of the world's biggest telecommunication companies - has been hit with an embarrassing data breach here in Australia. While the details are in dispute (some stories say the data was open to everyone, others say not), they all acknowledge that there has been a significant breach at a time when the company is already reeling from negative press about poor reception and data transfer speeds on their network.

To quote Vodafone:

"Customer information is stored on Vodafone's internal systems and accessed through a secure web portal, accessible to authorised employees and dealers via a secure login and password,"
Well it must be secure. They used the word secure twice!

Seriously though, while I can understand with all the partners and shops nation-wide that Vodafone found the easiest way to provide CRM access was to use the internet; it is a serious lapse in judgement for Vodafone to not require multifactor authentication on their web portal. What were they thinking?*

The Australian points out that it's likely that Vodafone won't get more than a public 'slap on the wrist' as the Privacy Commissioner currently has no power to act on breaches of the Privacy Act. Gah!

Adopting security is often about incentives. If the Privacy Commissioner can't 'punish' the company for the breach and implementing something like multifactor authentication can't be sold as a customer benefit ("Sign up with us and your data won't be stolen again!") then we're left relying on the company to 'do the right thing' - which has been shown again and again to not be a great incentive to businesses (it could be argued that if 'doing the right thing' was a sufficient incentive, Vodafone would have already used multifactor authentication on their CRM portal - I imagine someone inside of Vodafone is saying "I told you so" today...).

*probably that usernames and passwords are cheaper than multifactor authentication. Which they are, just not safer...

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