The finance department has made a critical error by sharing confidential commercial information for the second time, highlighting the frequency of human errors behind government data breaches. Last week, the department sent an email to 236 suppliers that contained embedded third-party confidential information. This incident comes on the heels of a similar breach in November of last year.

Shadow finance minister, Jane Hume, expressed concern that this breach will undermine confidence in the procurement process and could potentially lead to costly legal actions against the government. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner released data showing that the federal government is now among the top five sectors hit by breaches, primarily due to human error rather than criminal acts.

The finance department has taken steps to rectify the situation by contacting all affected suppliers to delete the email and attachments. Finance secretary Jenny Wilkinson has ordered an independent review of both the recent breach and the one from November 2023. This review, conducted by former commonwealth ombudsman Michael Manthorpe, will examine the circumstances that led to the unauthorized disclosure of information and assess the department’s systems and processes.

In light of this repeated failure, independent senator David Pocock has called for immediate action to prevent such mistakes from happening again. The data breach statistics also reveal that the government takes longer to identify and report breaches compared to other sectors, indicating a need for improved detection and response mechanisms within government agencies.


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