Red Cross urges donors not to abandon it in wake of data breach

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Many blood donors are yet to receive notification of the data breach. Photo: Rob GunstoneThe Australian Red Cross Blood Service has urged blood donors not to abandon it overits leak of 550,000 donors’ personal details, one of the largest data breaches in Australia’s history.
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Blood Service spokesman Shaun Inguanzo apologised to donors for the data leak but said the need for blood was urgent.

Australia has seen a decline in the number of people signing up to become new blood donors over the past 10 years, 87,000 annually down from 127,000.

“In Australia, we need a blood donation every 24 seconds, or 25,000 each week,” he said.

The service witnessed a 30 per cent spike in phone calls on Friday following news of the donor data leak.

Mr Inguanzo said most callers were donors wanting to know more about how it would affect them.

But he said there was no corresponding peak in cancellations of appointments to donate blood on Friday.

“It’s too early to tell at this stage if there’ll be any impact on the number of donors,” he said.

On Friday, the Service issued an apology to the blood donors whose personal information was contained in a file accidentally placed on an unsecured, public-facing part of its website.

The breach was discovered on Tuesday. The information relates to donors from 2010 to 2016 and includes names, addresses and dates of birth.

At the Melbourne Blood Donation Centre on Saturday, it was business as usual as donors streamed in, many unaware of their online vulnerability in the wake of the leak.

When informed of the data breach, Ian Lord, 57, said he “didn’t care” his personal information may be been publicly available online.

“It’s more important I give blood and save lives,” he said. “I’m not fazed by it.”

Donor Grace Keath, 28, had not been notified about the incident, but said it didn’t concern her.

“I put my name, address and all sorts of things everywhere else. I’m not worried,”she said.

Donor of 20 years Rebecca West echoed Ms Keath’s thoughts:”You can get that information online about me pretty easily anyway. I think it’s more important to donate.”

But others were not so forgiving. On the Red Cross Blood Service’s Facebook page, Ben Charles said he didn’t accept the organisation’s classification of the breach as “low-risk”.

“If the file was there for weeks then it could have been accessed and copied countless times by all sorts of people, not just the honest joe [sic]who finally told you about it.

“Those affected can then make their own risk assessment,” he said. “Very poor effort all round, looks like they are letting the PR spin doctors take control rather than caring for their donors.”

Another blood donor, Gaby Elida, commented that the data leak was “unacceptable”.

“Stronger security measures should be in place,” she said.

First appeared in SMH