SYDNEY, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Australian government officials, including the Premier of Victoria, had their emails compromised by a 2013 Yahoo data breach, it has been revealed.
Data compiled by the United States security company InfoArmor revealed that more than 3,000 of the one billion log-in credentials which were compromised were linked to Australian government email accounts.
InfoArmor said the 2013 data theft was undertaken by a hacker organization from East Europe and the account information was sold to a suspected foreign intelligence agency.
Included in the 3,000 Australian officials to have their credentials stolen were Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Federal Social Services Minister Christian Porter, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and a host of other Members of Parliament (MPs).
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was able to identify the officials who had been victims of the breach from the InfoArmor report because they had used their official government email addresses as backups in case they forgot their password.
Alastair MacGibbon, the Cyber Security Special Advisor to the prime minister, said the size of the 2013 Yahoo breach was "breathtaking."
"It's really what's inside those accounts that matters," MacGibbon told the ABC on Tuesday.
"If there are compromising activities inside those accounts, again, whether I work for a corporate or government it doesn't really matter, criminals may exploit that. Criminals may exploit me recycling a password."
Richard Buckland, a professor at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security, said the breach could have serious consequences for the politicians who were victims.
"There's potentially information in there that is blackmail-able," Buckland said.
"Perhaps records of transactions of purchases, or discussions or things they've done. Private conversations that they didn't want to do on a government server. Perhaps they've engaged in some sort of shady activity. Or just expenses for politicians, for example, that they might have tried to keep out of official channels.
"Blackmail information is very valuable to other governments for nudging or persuading people to do things."