Service NSW expecting cyber attack to set it back AU$7m in legal and investigation costs

Damage was revealed in the state government's 2020-21 Budget, which also drummed in the importance of digital technologies, including cybersecurity, through its AU$1.6 billion Digital Restart Fund.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Service NSW, the New South Wales government's one-stop shop for service delivery, in April 2020 experienced a cyber attack that compromised the information of 186,000 customers.

Following a four-month investigation that began in April, Service NSW said it identified that 738GB of data, which comprised of 3.8 million documents, was stolen from 47 staff email accounts.

Service NSW assured, however, there was no evidence that individual MyService NSW account data or Service NSW databases were compromised during the attack.

"This rigorous first step surfaced about 500,000 documents which referenced personal information," Service NSW CEO Damon Rees said in September. "The data is made up of documents such as handwritten notes and forms, scans, and records of transaction applications."

In delivering its 2020-21 Budget on Tuesday, the government revealed the legal and investigative cost it is expected to incur from the attack.

"In April 2020, Service NSW alerted police and authorities to a cyber attack that has potentially compromised customer information," the Budget documents [PDF] revealed. "Investigations into this matter are still ongoing however, Service NSW is expected to incur legal and investigation costs of approximately AU$7 million."

Elsewhere in the state's 2020-21 Budget, the government largely expanded on a handful of initiatives that have already launched and focused also on how to pull the state out of its AU$16 billion deficit.  

A big feature of its Budget was the Digital Restart Fund (DRF), which will be given AU$1.2 billion in capital and AU$400 million in recurrent funding.

"Key to delivering quality government services is ensuring that those services are fit-for-purpose and meet the needs of the community. In this Budget, the government is pursuing an ambitious transformation agenda driven by digitisation," the Budget papers stated.

The DRF will underpin this transformation, the state government said, as it aims to promote a "whole-of-sector approach to digitisation and service transformation" and supports job creation by "driving productivity and efficiency across the sector".

The DRF was already announced, with AU$100 million in seed funding provided at the 2019-20 Budget, but the 2020-21 Budget contains additional investments, including for school technology, digital courts, ePlanning, Revenue NSW, and cyber.

To recap, the government is hoping to close the "digital gap" between regional and metropolitan schools through better integration of digital technology into the school curriculum and infrastructure, with AU$366 million over two years to be given to the initiative.

Meanwhile, AU$54.5 million has been earmarked for a major digital courts and tribunals reform project to digitise services, improve productivity in the legal system, enhance processes, and improve customer experience.

AU$45.8 million will be used to implement the next phase of an end-to-end digital planning service through the ePlanning program and AU$17.5 million of the DRF has been allocated towards improving the online customer experience for key Revenue NSW online services.

Also reserved under the DRF is AU$240 million for cybersecurity initiatives, including AU$60 million over the next three years for Cyber Security NSW.

Cyber Security NSW is responsible for detecting, scanning, and managing online vulnerabilities and data across departments and agencies.

The Budget is also aiming to support the growth of the state's advanced manufacturing sector, with a new industry strategy that it hopes can create more jobs across a range of industries, including defence and space, and drive the development of emerging industries such as cybersecurity, medtech, and other digital technologies.

Elsewhere, the state is also investing in digital health measures that "build on key successes during COVID-19" and further modernise its health system.

See also: Digital venue registrations for contact tracing will be mandatory across NSW

AU$50.4 million will be used to provide technology-enabled workforce support options, including remote video conferencing and expanding telehealth services and related infrastructure to enable more access to mental health support for people in immediate crisis.  

An integrated state-wide laboratory information management system will also be developed to provide seamless ordering, processing, and reporting of over 70 million tests per year across NSW Health; and a real-time prescription monitoring system will be implemented to track prescribed medicines associated with a high risk of causing harm, dependence, or misuse.

Hoping to lay the foundations of a strong economic recovery, the government has also introduced a number of productivity reforms that are designed to support individuals and businesses to rapidly adapt to the new environment, make it easier to do business by removing hurdles to investment and innovation, and leverage the opportunities from COVID-19 and adopt new technologies.

"Business investment will be critical to a sustainable recovery," the papers said. "The NSW government is supporting businesses affected by COVID-19 to adapt, innovate, and invest in new activities.

"The NSW government's targeted relaxation of trading hours and other regulations at the height of the pandemic has helped businesses pivot to alternative models and encouraged the uptake of new technology.

"The Treasurer will lead a whole-of-government evaluation of the costs and benefits of retaining some of these temporary changes to promote a stronger recovery."

The state is also providing up to AU$500 million as part of its "Out and About" program to stimulate spending in the local economy, including restaurants, visitor sites, and cultural attractions. Every adult resident will be eligible to claim up to AU$100 in digital vouchers to spend on eating out and entertainment.

With AU$472 million, meanwhile, the state will give small and medium-sized businesses which do not pay payroll tax access to a AU$1,500 digital voucher that can be used towards the cost of any government fees and charges before 30 June 2022.

The vouchers are accessible through the MyService NSW portal and operate as a rebate, where a claim can be made after fees and charges have been paid.

Service NSW will use almost AU$103 million to add 1,000 staff to support projects and expand the capacity of Service NSW frontline services to respond to increased customer demand and changing customer needs during COVID-19.


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