Commonwealth Bank lost 20m customers' records

SYDNEY • Australia's troubled Commonwealth Bank admitted yesterday it has lost financial records for almost 20 million customers in a major security blunder, but insisted there was no need to worry.

The nation's biggest company said it cannot find two magnetic data tapes that stored names, addresses, account numbers and transaction details from 2000 to 2016.

National broadcaster ABC said the records were supposed to have been destroyed by a subcontractor after the decommissioning of a data centre, but the bank never received documentation to confirm this happened.

The lender assured customers there was no need to worry as the tapes did not contain passwords, personal identification numbers or other data that could be used for fraud.

It said in a statement after the incident was exposed by Australian media that an independent forensic investigation in 2016 "determined the most likely scenario was the tapes had been disposed of".

It said the issue was not cyber-related and there was no compromise of its technology platforms, systems, services, apps or websites, and no evidence of customer harm.

But ongoing monitoring of the 19.8 million customer accounts involved is continuing, just in case.

"We take the protection of customer data very seriously and incidents like this are not acceptable," said Mr Angus Sullivan, acting group executive for the lender's retail banking services.

He added customers had a 100 per cent security guarantee against fraud where it was not their fault.

"The relevant regulators were notified in 2016 and we undertook a thorough forensic investigation, providing further updates to our regulators after its completion," Mr Sullivan added.

"We also put in place heightened monitoring of customer accounts to ensure no data compromise had occurred. We concluded, given the results of the investigation, that we would not alert customers."

The latest revelations cap a troublesome few months for the Commonwealth Bank.

On Tuesday, a report by the country's financial services regulator slammed the bank for a complacent culture and ineffective board after a series of scandals.

The banking giant has been embroiled in claims that it broke anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, and is also facing court action over alleged rigging of the benchmark interest rate, which is used to set the price of domestic financial products.

Alongside Australia's three other major lenders - National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ - it is also under scrutiny in a royal commission looking into misconduct in the finance industry.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Commonwealth Bank lost 20m customers' records'. Print Edition | Subscribe