EQUIFAX site breached again

Please note: Equifax is the company that runs our whole credit reporting system in Australia (GHG)

By Dan Goodin - (Ars Technica 12

Why the Equifax breach is very possibly the worst leak of personal info ever

Hacks hitting Yahoo and other sites, by contrast, may have breached more accounts, but the severity of the personal data was generally more limited. And in most cases the damage could be contained by changing a password or getting a new credit card number.What's more, the 143 million US people Equifax said were potentially affected accounts for roughly 44 percent of the population. When children and people without credit histories are removed, the proportion becomes even bigger. That means well more than half of all US residents who rely the most on bank loans and credit cards are now at a significantly higher risk of fraud and will remain so for years to come. Besides being used to take out loans in other people's names, the data could be abused by hostile governments to, say, tease out new information about people with security clearances, especially in light of the 2015 hack on the US Office of Personnel Management, which exposed highly sensitive data on 3.2 million federal employees, both current and retired.

Amateur response

Besides the severity and scope of the pilfered data, the Equifax breach also stands out for the way the company has handled the breach once it was discovered. For one thing, it took the Atlanta-based company more than five weeks to disclose the data loss. Even worse, according to Bloomberg News, three Equifax executives were permitted to sell more than $1.8 million worth of stock in the days following the July 29 discovery of the breach. While Equifax officials told the news service the employees hadn't been informed of the breach at the time of the sale, the transaction at a minimum gives the wrong appearance and suggests incident responders didn't move fast enough to contain damage in the days after a potentially catastrophic hack came into focus.What's more, the website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/, which Equifax created to notify people of the breach, is highly problematic for a variety of reasons. It runs on a stock installation WordPress, a content management system that doesn't provide the enterprise-grade security required for a site that asks people to provide their last name and all but three digits of their Social Security number. The TLS certificate doesn't perform proper revocation checks. Worse still, the domain name isn't registered to Equifax, and its format looks like precisely the kind of thing a criminal operation might use to steal people's details. It's no surprise that Cisco-owned Open DNS was blocking access to the site and warning it was a suspected phishing threat.

That by itself wouldn't allow for unauthorized access, but it's still something that should never have happened.Meanwhile, in the hours immediately following the breach disclosure, the main Equifax website was displaying debug codes, which for security reasons, is something that should never happen on any production server, especially one that is a server or two away from so much sensitive data. A mistake this serious does little to instill confidence company engineers have hardened the site against future devastating attacks.It was bad enough that Equifax operated a website that criminals could exploit to leak so much sensitive data. That, combined with the sheer volume and sensitivity of the data spilled, was enough to make this among the worst data breaches ever. The haphazard response all but guarantees it.

Brisbane Apartment prices lower than a decade ago


There's a popular perception that investing in bricks and mortar is a one-way bet, but that hasn't been the case for many Australian home owners, with Brisbane unit values are lower now than a decade ago.

Key points:

  • Couple bought Brisbane apartment for $432k in 2011, sold it for $430k this year
  • Analyst says New Farm is a highly desirable suburb, but Brisbane market has seen negative growth over last decade
  • Over the next two years Brisbane will have added about 20 per cent more apartments

Lisa Foley and her husband bought their first home in the sought-after, inner-city suburb of New Farm in 2011.

It's an older-style, two-bedroom, one-bathroom brick unit in a complex of about 40, but the location — on one of the suburb's best, leafiest streets — was hard to beat.

However, when it came time to sell that unit earlier this year, the full force of Brisbane's apartment downturn hit home.

The couple bought the apartment for $432,000, and it was initially listed in the high-$400,000 range. 

But, after months on the market, the asking price was slashed to the mid-$400,000s. It was finally sold for $430,000.

Ms Foley said, when they moved in to their first home, the idea that it would sit on the market for three-and-a-half months and sell at a loss just six years later was unfathomable.

"We knew it was an older-style unit," she said.

"We did invest some money in it before we sold it, so we put some new carpets in, we repainted, we did a little bit of work to the kitchen and bathroom.

"So we did put money in as well, but we thought we would be safe because it was on Moray Street in New Farm."

The homeowners aren't the only ones surprised by losing money in such a popular neighbourhood.

A modern sleek white kitchen in an apartment

When they applied for a business loan, their bank put a much higher valuation on the apartment.

"We had it valued by our bank this year, when we were purchasing the business, before we did any work to it, they valued it at $460,000," Ms Foley said.

"I guess I was always under the impression that a bank valuation was a more conservative valuation as well, so we thought on the basis of that valuation that we would get a little bit more than that."

Tim Lawless, the head of research at property analysis firm CoreLogic, was also a bit bewildered.

"It is surprising — New Farm is a really highly desirable suburb," he told ABC News.

"It's inner-city, it doesn't have anywhere near the supply concerns that you'd find in say a Fortitude Valley or a South Brisbane or West End."But when you look at the overall Brisbane market place we've seen negative growth over the past decade."

Mr Lawless said the woes for Brisbane apartment owners are nothing new.

"The last 10 years we've actually seen house values rise by about 22 per cent across Brisbane, but unit values are actually lower than what they were way back in 2007," he said.

"In fact they've been down by about 3.3 per cent over the past decade."

Things can only get ... worse

But he said things are set to get worse, not better, over the next two years, because Brisbane will have added about 20 per cent more apartments than currently exist in that time.

"It's never been this high and, in fact, it's about double the long-term average at the moment," he added.

That is exactly what Lisa Foley thought when considering the lowball offer."The feedback that we got was that it was going to get worse, so we should sell now," she said.

Ms Foley is convinced that Brisbane's apartment construction boom crippled the sale of her first home.

"I'm no expert but I'd have to think that was the biggest problem for us," she said.

Retaining her New Farm property as a rental investment wasn't a viable option either because high vacancy rates mean tenants are currently calling the shots.

"There were so many other new apartments going up offering things like a month's free rent or, I heard of one, they were giving a $1,000 credit card to new tenants coming in, so that was a concern for us."

Surely this is just a Brisbane problem?

Given that overbuilding is the key problem, many analysts argue that price falls will be restricted to areas such as inner-Brisbane, where development has seen a massive peak.

Tim Lawless is certainly of the view that over-development is far more of a problem in Brisbane than in Melbourne or Sydney.

"Melbourne's actually seeing a larger raw number of units, but that city's well along a densification path and the uplift in total stock is only about 15 per cent [versus 21 per cent in Brisbane]," he said.

"Then you've got Sydney, where there's about 95,000 units about to come online in the next two years, but that's only a 12 per cent uplift in stock."

Unlike Brisbane, in the last few years those cities have also benefited from stronger population growth and flourishing state economies which have helped to shore up demand for new high-density residential developments.

"Over the past five years, about 75 per cent of Australian jobs have been created across New South Wales and Victoria, only about 15 per cent of national jobs are being created in Queensland," Mr Lawless added.

But there are signs of softness in the seemingly invincible Sydney market — figures from Domain showed the first quarterly price fall in almost two years, with house prices off 1.9 per cent and unit prices down 0.8 per cent.

The resource-reliant capitals of Perth and Darwin have already seen far larger declines — unit prices in WA's capital are off 7.7 per cent over the past year, while Darwin units are more than 30 per cent cheaper than a year ago.

Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart are still on the up, but given the levels of development underway and planned, any drop-off in population growth could see the booms unwind.

Tim Lawless believes there are early signs of improving jobs growth in Queensland and the severe housing affordability constraints in Sydney could help resurrect the Brisbane unit market, but he warned it will take some time.

"The typical house value in Sydney is just over $1 million — it's $1.74 million — whereas in Brisbane it's just over $500,000," he observed.

"So you can understand why people in Sydney will be cashing out of that marketplace and moving towards south-east Queensland."

But if people start leaving Sydney and Melbourne because they have become too expensive, then the price falls seen in places like Brisbane could gradually spread.

One in Five double dipped on FHOG

 by Jessica Irvine (SMH) 13/10/17
One in five recipients of a now abolished $5000 "new home grant" double-dipped on the scheme to receive multiple grants, including 1500 people and 1869 companies who pocketed more than five grants each.

First home buyers were not eligible for the grants, which were introduced by the Baird government in 2012 and pitched as a way to boost housing construction.

But economists have been highly critical of the scheme, saying it boosted the bottom line of builders and further inflated property prices.
A total of 83,151 grants worth $416 million were handed out under the controversial scheme, which was shut down by the Berejiklian government on June 30 after criticism from former Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens.

In a review for the government, Mr Stevens was critical of all grants to home buyers but singled out those going to non-first-time buyers as particularly wasteful. 

"It is important to note that at present about half of the grants made by the government do not go to first home buyers: they go to those buying their second or subsequent home, if it is a new dwelling," he wrote in his report to the Premier in May. "There may have been a case for this to assist the building industry during the financial crisis, but the builders don't need that demand stimulus now: what they need is faster processes for converting zoning and development applications into construction and an ability to respond to those segments of the market that will accept smaller, lower-cost dwellings."

Independent economist Saul Eslake said it was possible the scheme had led to "some marginal increase in supply" but "the most significant effect would likely have been to fatten builders' profit margins by something close to the amount of the grant".

Initially unlimited, the scheme was modified in 2014 to exclude foreign buyers and to introduce a cap of one grant per buyer per year.

During the five years of the scheme, there was a total of 131,203 recipients. A single grant could go to more than one recipient, for example a husband or wife.

Of the total recipients, 23,341 – or 18 per cent – received more than one grant, the figures show.

Of these multiple recipients, 3,378 pocketed more than five grants each, including 1509 individuals and 1869 companies.

Shadow treasury spokesman Ryan Park described the figures as "staggering".

"It must have finally dawned even on them – Berejiklian and [Treasurer] Perrottet – that it was not a good look to give away tens of millions of dollars to help people get their fourth or even fifth home, while hundreds of thousands of people were struggling to get a toehold on the property ladder," he said.

"If you're looking for evidence that this government has failed to honour its pledge to tackle the housing crisis, then here it is."A spokesman for the Treasurer pointed to record new housing construction and approval figures in NSW.

"When Labor was in government they were averaging 2,666 approvals a month. The Berejiklian-Barilaro government is averaging 4,679 approvals a month, or a 76per cent increase," the spokesman said.

"The New Home Grant scheme, introduced to stimulate supply in the market, is being phased out from the July 1 this year, having been replaced by a package of reforms including stamp duty exemptions and reductions for first home buyers.

"Labor's empty words on housing affordability ring hollow after 16 years of inaction when they were in government."

Previous information provided by the department revealed that postcodes on Sydney's urban fringe were the biggest recipients of the grants, including Camden, Spring Farm, Cambridge Park, Marsden Park, Liverpool and Campbelltown and Kellyville.