Whoops, looks like Australia just opened up the presidents of the United States, Russia and China to identity theft. A new report from The Guardian has found that Australia's immigration department emailed President Obama's personal information, including his passport number, to the organizers of a soccer tournament. Really, a soccer tournament.
The Guardian reports that the security breach occurred last November, ahead of the 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane. Personal details ranging from passport numbers and visa subclass information to birth dates and titles were reportedly "accidentally" emailed to organizers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament. President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo were among those affected by the lapse in security.
An official in the Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection notified the Australian privacy commissioner via email about the security breach. The Guardian obtained the email, which pegs the breach in private information to an immigration employee:
The cause of the breach was human error. [Redacted] failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person’s details into the email ‘To’ field. This led to the email being sent to the wrong person. The matter was brought to my attention directly by [redacted] immediately after receiving an email from [the recipient] informing them that they had sent the email to the wrong person.
The Australian immigration official also made it clear that nothing was "systemic" or "institutional" about the security breach. "The risk remains only to the extent of human error," the official wrote.
Australia's immigration department also said there's no evidence that organizers with the Asian Cup forwarded the email to anyone, so rest assured no one has stolen Obama's identity (that we know of). The email was also never copied, and has since been deleted. "The Asian Cup local organising committee do not believe the email to be accessible, recoverable or stored anywhere else in their systems," the official wrote.
The White House and U.S. Department of State have yet to comment on the security breach, which certainly had the potential of severely jeopardizing national security. In fact, with all 31 world leaders who attended the G20 Summit compromised, this security breach had the potential of being disastrous for international security and relations.
Australia's immigration agency sent a statement to The Telegraph on Monday, reiterating:
The data was immediately deleted by the recipient and was not distributed further. The department has reviewed and strengthened its email protocols to limit and contain future breaches.
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