CANBERRA -- The Turnbull Government has referred claims to police that the details of 'any Australian' Medicare patient are up for sale online -- through services offered as a 'Medicare Machine'.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said on Tuesday any apparent unauthorised access to Medicare card numbers is of "great concern", while Labor's Linda Burney has accused the Turnbull Government of incompetent handling of the internet and her acting leader Tanya Plibersek has called it an "internet catastrophe".
The Australia Federal Police (AFP) has confirmed it is evaluating a referral from the Department of Human Services.
On Tuesday, the Guardian Australia reported that a trader on a popular, but hidden auction site for illegal products had been found offering Medicare card details for less than $30 each. This secretive peer-to-peer online world is variously known as the 'darknet' or 'dark web.'
Using a Department of Human Services logo, the seller dubbed the service "the Medicare machine", with the card details seen as valuable in the production of fake IDs.
The Guardian Australia verified the legitimacy of the card details by requesting the data of one of its own journalists.
The report suggested the government system may be "seriously compromised" and open to organised crime groups who regularly use the dark web.
Tudge released a statement saying the claims are being taken seriously by the Government and are under investigation.
"These claims have also been referred to the Australian Federal Police."
"The Guardian claims that one of its own journalists bought his own Medicare card details from the dark web."
"I have received assurance that the information obtained by the journalist was not sufficient to access any personal health record. The only information claimed to be supplied by the site was the Medicare card number. The journalist was asked to provide his own name and date of birth in order to obtain the Medicare card number."
Any apparent unauthorised access to Medicare card numbers is nevertheless of great concern."
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge
Labor has demanded the government immediately explain how the breach happened and how long it has been going on for as well as detailing the size and implications of the allegations.
"This is a very, very serious privacy breach," Plibersek told reporters in Melbourne.
And the Shadow Human Services Minister Linda Burney has told HuffPost Australia that the government should be embarrassed that the breach was exposed through the media.
"I am shocked and the questions are not being answered by the government," she said. "It is really alarming that our Medicare numbers could be being illegally used."
Burney has accused the Turnbull Government of mismanaging cyber security and the services it provides over the internet.
"The fact that the cyber security legislation that they have just brought in won't come into effect until early 2018," Burney said. "And of course the woes of Centrelink, particularly in terms of robodebt, it just starts to paint a very difficult picture and a picture that people won't have much confidence in."
"I am saying the government has much to answer in the way it is managing cyber security and the way it is managing the services it provides in terms of the internet."
The name of the site has not been published and the method of obtaining the Medicare card details is not known.
The alleged "Medicare machine" vendor is reportedly listed on the auction site as "highly trusted" with dozens of positive reviews.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar insists the Turnbull Government takes the data it collects on individuals "extraordinarily seriously".
"It's very alarming to me if any of that data is finding its way into hands that it shouldn't be," he told Sky News.
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