Data leak: Spare us the empty promises and launch independent probe, TI-M says

IRATE with ministers downplaying the recent expose on data leak, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) urged the Government to set up an independent team to investigate the matter.

“Verbal guarantees on the strength of government agencies’ firewalls will not suffice. We need a transparent investigation into such breaches and the report must be made public.

“After that, the Cabinet must find out what is lacking in our Personal Data Protection Act 2012 and other related laws. Plug the loopholes and strengthen our existing data protection framework,” it said, in a statement.

Two weeks ago, tech website reported that the National Registration Department’s (NRD) dataset containing details of Malaysia’s population with birth years between 1940 and 2004 – roughly about 22.5 million people – was on sale for nearly RM44,000 at a database marketplace forum.

Following the shocking revelation, Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) announced it would investigate the matter.

Later, home minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin claimed that the leak did not come from NRD, despite the ongoing probe.

“We (at the ministry) have a mechanism to verify that the leaked data was not from the NRD.

“As in previous cases, the sale of data involves several agencies which we have given some leeway (for them) to obtain information from the department.”

On May 20, senior minister (defence) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin despite the leak, Malaysians need not worry as it would not jeopardise national security.

“The home ministry has the Special Branch, and I’ve worked with them in the past (as home minister). I believe that they (home ministry) are more than equipped (to handle such a threat).

“Also, this sort of threat does not jeopardise the national security of our country,” Free Malaysia Today reported him as saying.

TI-M is not the first organisation to call for an independent probe as earlier today, an expert had made the same call too.

“We have to find our if personal details of our Agong, prime minister and other Cabinet members were also leaked in the dark web.

“And we need to ascertain whether any of our intelligence information got leaked in the process too. That is why I consider this a national security issue,” Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd principal consultant R Paneir Selvam was reported as saying.

Not the first time

Touching on the matter, TI-M said that this was not the first time such a thing had happened as it occurred in September last year.

“A similar sale of voter and registration personal data of four million Malaysians previously took place in September last year on a different website called Raidforums.

“However, this particular marketplace had since been taken down through a global operation led by the US this year.

“Not only is this issue a recurring threat to data privacy of all Malaysians but there also seems to be a lack of clarity and eagerness from the Government to transparently disclose and discuss the best solution deter such threats from happening again,” it opined.

TI-M remarked: “We need a more robust cybersecurity system put in place to ensure such breach never happens again.

“As we approach the world of 5G, IR4.0 and metaverse, we must not be complacent towards the growing threat of cybercrimes and the vulnerability of our personal data and privacy.” – May 23, 2022

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