Any database linked to internet is vulnerable

Credit:Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

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Any database linked to internet is vulnerable

Another massive data breach, this time with driver licence numbers and passport details in the mix of stolen personal information. Although politicians and business executives will assure us that all measures are being taken to protect such information, the obvious fact is that any database that is in any way linked to the internet is vulnerable. Even offline data can readily be copied by an insider, as Chelsea Manning demonstrated when alerting us to the massive abuse of US military might.

Whether by hacking, phishing or other means of intrusion, once access is gained any information on those electronic databases can be taken. And yet we persist in allowing the collection and (unsafe) storage of massive amounts of personal information by corporations and government, all in the name of efficiency. After all, after a brief period of embarrassment, it is we who suffer and not the holders of our information.

The issue becomes more important as corporations move beyond taking copies of our documents to collecting biometric data: your face tomorrow. If such data is to be kept in electronic form, it should be broken into smaller databases and kept offline. People could be employed (if that is not too extravagant an expense) to access data when needed.
James McDougall, Fitzroy North

Dangerous requirement to provide personal details

The Optus data breach has again raised questions about the supply of information when accessing services or buying goods. The information required to even take your kids to a session at the local library or buy tickets to an event requires a registration process where the supply of personal data is mandatory if you wish to proceed. Fair enough for the supply of an email or mobile to confirm and/or receive your payment, receipt, barcode or whatever is required for proof of purchase.

However, is extra information such as mobile numbers, street address, age and sex really necessary in some cases? Furthermore in supplying these details, an influx of new spam mail usually follows in addition to relentless advertising for goods and services.

The necessary supply of all this data also disadvantages people who either cannot afford, or are not sufficiently tech savvy, or whose first language is not English, to manage these requirements in order to purchase goods or services.
Annie Coleman, Camberwell

The serious repercussions of data breaches

I just received a text message from my daughter starting with her usual greeting, “Hi, mum” and ending with lots of love hearts. She texted to let me know she had a new phone number and that I could delete the old one. Only it was not from my daughter.

Was this just a simple and clever phishing expedition or did the scammer have information about my demographics and knew I had a daughter? I contacted her immediately on the old number to check, given that we both use Optus and I was aware of the data breach. (There was no need to contact my son, as sadly, he never leaves love hearts on the end of his messages to his mother.)
Liz Jovanovic, Moonee Ponds

Hackers’ goal is to sell our identity information

What possible reason does Optus have for retaining identity information of customers, most particularly past customers, once the verification process has been completed? And if there is a reason, why is the data not encrypted? There is a lot of talk of ransomware but the simpler reason for the cyber hack is to sell customers’ identity information – an extremely valuable commodity.
Erica Grebler, Caulfield North

Change the law to better protect consumers

As a past customer of Optus, I am at risk of having my identity stolen or being scammed. When the identification process has been completed, organisations should not have a lawful reason to retain personal information. Let us make this law now.
Ian Cameron, Chelsea


Reform Security Council

Hooray for Foreign Minister Penny Wong who extolled Australia’s virtues to the world in a bid to gain membership of the UN Security Council for 2029-30 (The Age, 25/9). And who also argued for greater permanent representation on it from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Some argue that the five permanent members – US, UK, Russia, France and China, which are also nuclear powers – provide stability. Critics view them as a “club” which tends not to listen to small and medium-sized countries. A veto from any one of them can block a decision by the council.

I agree with Wong that no permanent member should be allowed to flout the ideals and goals of the UN Charter as Russia has done with its abuse of human rights and safety in Ukraine. The Security Council is in urgent need of reform in order to better represent small and medium-sized countries and protect the global community.
Liz Buckley, Doreen

Overlooked medical aid

It is sad to hear of chronic GP shortages and dire forecasts for the future. In the olden days, retired GPs like myself were allowed to offer assistance to family and neighbours.

For example, putting a stitch in a neighbour’s thumb from a weekend gardening accident, giving a grandchild an antibiotic for a middle ear infection in the middle of the night, or giving the partner a replacement for a lost HRT (hormone replacement therapy) script.

This help was given gratis, at no cost to Medicare and reduced overcrowding in hospital emergencies with simple cases that did not need to be there. But retired doctors could not be trusted to provide this free service in case some of them were too old and cognitively impaired to know their limitations. Unfortunately, none of us are now allowed to lift a finger to help once we have retired.
Dr Ralph Frank, Malvern East

Act now for the future

Taylor Voss-Smith, in an excellent letter (The Age, 26/9), highlights the problems in, and proposes solutions to, our hospital and associated medical crisis. If only both major parties took notice of his concerns, it would go a long way in addressing the problem of doctors and nurses leaving the system due to burn out and also benefit sick patients. As the saying goes, if you look after the present the future looks after itself.
Christine Baker, Rosanna

Enough with Yarra

So Yarra Council has cancelled its next council meeting because there are no items on the agenda. Are you serious? We need to appoint an administrator to the council immediately.
Christine Hammett, Richmond

Rail, the way to travel

The dangerous rationale for a rail link to Melbourne Airport (The Age, 26/9) is that flying is a good thing and will continue to grow. Yet in the climate emergency, aviation cannot become emissions-free fast enough, nor can the airport cut the flight emissions it enables by 50per cent by 2030, to meet the legislated target.

Flying is the most warming activity on the planet, by minute and kilometre. The Melbourne-Sydney flight path is the fifth-most emissions intensive on the planet. In 2019, Melbourne Airport’s flights created 28 milliontonnes of global warming emissions.

Why do we, through our state government, support infrastructure projects that will only magnify the impacts of global warming? Rail travel, when electrified by renewables, can have a very low emissions footprint. Wouldn’t our billions be better spent on speeding up rail services between capital cities?
Mark Carter, Chewton

Where is the spirit?

A recent Four Corners program revealed that the ad hoc outsourcing of services by Qantas put safety at risk, lost and bullied experienced staff, lost control of baggage and lost communication with its customers. But worse than the inept business model, Qantas management lost sight of “the spirit of Australia”.
Anna Cook, Kew

More information, please

Peter FitzSimons calls for Australians to renew support for a republic (Comment, 26/9). Ironically, an opinion poll in the same edition reveals that the majority of those asked believe that establishing the Indigenous Voice should take priority over renewed calls for a republic.

But in both instances, it is apparent there is confusion about how the concepts will become reality. Before either question is formally put, it is imperative that Australians understand the rationale for the recommended changes and the desired outcomes. It seems there is a lot more work to be done in both.
Sally Davis, Malvern East

Aim for middle ground

To give credit to Peter FitzSimons, no grass grows under his feet in the pursuit of his republican ideal. I am glad he is putting forward a model early – it is unpalatable to me. The minimalist McGarvie model, with the governor-general as head of state, is the only one I (and I suspect many others) can support.

Leaving the political class to nominate candidates is inherently political. In a game of choose your elites, having former governor-generals and High Court justices appoint a head of state may be the perfect middle ground between criticism of royal succession and political nomination.
Michael Ilyine, Highton

Dodson has my vote

I would be proud to see Senator Patrick Dodson as our first Australian head of state or republican leader. He has all the credentials and qualities that epitomise a great leader. Intelligence, integrity, humility and generosity of spirit. He is also a peacemaker. He listens with the utmost respect and in doing this, he brings all people together.
Marie Douglas, Camberwell

The leader we don’t want

Our ship is sinking, but we have a small boat, and there is a deserted island nearby. Only a limited number of seats, so who do we choose as our companions? Maybe a farmer, carpenter, nurse/doctor, plumber – they would be very useful. And if we needed someone who was useless and to be nothing but a burden, I would save a seat for a king – and Charles would be my first choice. Otherwise, no …
Neil Howard, Torquay

All hail our great dame

President of Australia? I vote for Dame Edna. Who better to open each parliament with “Hello possums” while we wave our green and gold gladdies?
Lois-Ann Davey, Leopold

A true football legend

I am not a Geelong supporter but I think the conduct of Joel Selwood in the grand final was so selfless. His performance on the field in the first quarter set Geelong up for their well-deserved win. His conduct before and after the game was exemplary. Carrying Gary Ablett’s son, Levi, out at the beginning of the match was very moving, and then giving that young supporter his footy boots topped it off. Well done, Joel.
Stan Kluzek, Colac

Players’ anthem bluff?

The AFL players know the words of our national anthem (Letters, 26/9) but consider it unmanly to sing it. All they have to do is mime it, in any case.
Andrew Quinn, Brighton

Take a stand on Iran

The Australian parliament should condemn the treatment of women in Iran. The death of a female protester in police custody must focus attention on the evil regime.
Helen Leach, Bendigo

Why teachers are quitting

After being bullied out of jobs by principals because I was at the top of the pay scale (and therefore a liability), left unsupported when false accusations were made by students, left to fend for myself when confronted by aggressive students and parents, snowed under by the amount of work, made to attend pointless “meetings” for the sake of having meetings and so on, it is no wonder that I and my former colleagues do not want to teach any more. Teacher shortage? Too bad, so sad.
Name withheld, Balaclava

The MPs we really need

There is no need now for that “why we lost the federal election” review by the Liberals. Caroline Leslie (Letters 26/9) has done it for them. Among her suggestions are candidates who represent their community, not their party, integrity, accountability and serious action on climate and environment.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

Supporting the big two

Your correspondent wants to get rid of the two-party system. A system that has served Australia well, at both the federal and state level, over a long period. It has provided Australia with reasonably competent and stable governments. You only have to look at some other countries to see what the alternative can look like. What have the “teal” independents contributed since being elected in May? Not much.
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

Model worth emulating

My parents, who moved from Dutch Indonesia to the Netherlands after World War II, lived in a rental house in which they brought up five children. Paying rent to a landlord each month was affordable and acceptable.
Tenants have security of tenure in the Netherlands. There are government regulations for rent increases. No intrusive inspections, no regulations that you cannot make it your “home” with your own colours or wallpaper in those days. Houses are sold, landlords change but tenants stay put until they decide they want to move. Surely this is a model of housing that should be considered in Australia.
Ruth Davis, Carrum

Coalition’s poor record

Peter Dutton accuses the Albanese government of making up policy for the Voice referendum “on the run” (The Age, 26/9). He should not judge the government’s performance using the same standards to policy development that the Coalition government used in the previous nine years.
John Togno, Mandurang



It’s time Vladimir Putin put himself in the front line of his invasion of Ukraine.
Roger Christiansz, Wheelers Hill

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, of course you’d support the outcome of a referendum among the Taiwanese to remain independent from China.
John Groom, Bentleigh

Rules based order: The US sets the rules and gives the orders. More US hypocrisy.
Ken McLeod, Williamstown

Grand final

Jeremy Cameron, no porkies, please. How did your premiership medal end up around the cow’s neck?
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill

Maybe Channel Seven’s ratings (26/9) would improve if viewers saw more football than ads.
Ian Anderson, Ascot Vale

Any program that climaxes in the first 10 minutes with no further plot development won’t rate well.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Re Robbie Williams. Here are four words I have never put together before: Gill got it right.
Maryanne Barclay, Frankston South


I suggest that Tony Abbott be appointed New South Wales’ new chief behaviour officer.
Joan Kerr, Geelong

Full marks to Sally McManus for her potent statement that “the union movement has zero tolerance for corruption”. (26/9).
Brian Marshall, Ashburton

How about Vida Goldstein as a notable person worthy of the honour of being on the $5 note?
John Heath, Hampton

If we’d had an Indigenous Voice, maybe the cashless welfare card would have been set up better, rather than imposed.
John Hughes, Mentone

Yes, we Australians really, really want reconciliation, but we’re sure not going to give up the Union Jack, the King and all the other symbols of dispossession.
Greg Pyers, Daylesford

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