Daniel Lai, the head of ASX-listed Canberra-based cyber security firm archTIS, told iTWire that in the case of the Cathay Pacific breach, there had been silence from the company for more than six months, with the breach occurring in March and disclosure in October.
"Cathay Pacific's reputation is seriously damaged by this leak. The time it has taken to disclose this incident demonstrates this," he said.
Lai said the implications were especially severe because of the nature of the information that had been leaked: passenger name; nationality; date of birth; phone number; email; address; passport number; identity card number; frequent flyer program membership number; customer service remarks; and historical travel information.
Lai said that it would be easy for professional identity thieves to steal the identities of Cathay customers given the surfeit of details that had leaked.
"You can steal someone's identity, destroy their credit history and and potentially leave their lives in complete disarray," he said.
The Australian data breach law, promulgated on 22 February, was a start towards making companies accountable for breaches but it needed to be tougher, he opined.
Lai agreed that information about a breach should be made public, so that people could be properly forewarned about what to expect in a particular case.
While the tendency for companies to keep quiet about a breach was natural - because of the liability involved - Lai said there was a responsibility also to think in wider terms and provide information to the particular sector so that more breaches did not follow.
The breach also demonstrated that traditional security was not up to the task of protecting a company, he pointed out. One could not have access controls for different sections of a company that did not talk to each other, else each could be exploited on its own.
Nick Lennon, country manager at email security provider Mimecast, said: "The Cathay Pacific breach is very concerning in terms of its scale and length of time taken to alert affected customers. It’s likely that EU citizens were included in a breach of this size and GDPR questions will be asked.
“Once personal information is compromised, cyber criminals can implement highly targeted spear-phishing and social engineering attacks, often via impersonation emails against friends or business contacts. These impersonation attacks are now the easiest way for criminals to steal money and valuable data.
“Notified customers should change passwords as precaution and alert their employer’s IT security teams to help look out for attacks misusing their personal information.”