Skip to main content
Skip to secondary navigation
Menu
Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Notifiable Data Breaches scheme

Agencies and organisations regulated under the Australian Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) are required to notify affected individuals and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) when a data breach is likely to result in serious harm to individuals whose personal information is involved in the breach. 

This page provides an overview of the scheme and information to help entities comply with these requirements and notify the OAIC and affected individuals when an eligible breach occurs.

Our Data breach preparation and response guide provides detailed information, including a general framework, to help entities prepare for and respond to data breaches.

If you are concerned that your own personal information may have been involved in a data breach, you may be interested in our data breach guidance for individuals.

Overview

The NDB scheme applies from 22 February 2018 to all agencies and organisations with existing personal information security obligations under the Privacy Act. It was established by the passage of the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017.

The scheme includes an obligation to notify individuals whose personal information is involved in a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm. The notification must include recommendations about the steps individuals should take in response to the breach. The Australian Information Commissioner (Commissioner) must also be notified of eligible data breaches.

Agencies and organisations must be prepared to conduct a quick assessment of a suspected data breach to determine whether it is likely to result in serious harm, and as a result require notification.

Notifications to the Commissioner should be lodged through the Notifiable Data Breach form.

When the NDB scheme requirements took effect

The NDB scheme commenced on 22 February 2018. It only applies to eligible data breaches that occur on or after that date.

Section 6 of the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017 says that the scheme applies to incidents where personal information is subject to unauthorised access or disclosure, or is lost, following the scheme’s commencement.

An organisation that discovers a data breach before 22 February 2018 is not subject to the NDB scheme. If the organisation discovers the breach after 22 February 2018, but the breach occurred prior to that date, the breach is not an eligible data breach for the purposes of the NDB scheme.

However, certain data breaches occur over a period rather than at a discrete point in time. For example, a system may be compromised by an attacker before 22 February 2018, with data subsequently stolen both before and after 22 February 2018. While entities will need to assess their particular circumstances, in such a situation, the OAIC suggests that entities should assume that the breach is subject to the NDB scheme.

Example 1 – Data breach that occurs before the NDB scheme takes effect

On 30 March 2018, a routine IT security assessment reveals that an unauthorised third party accessed a business’s customer database on 10 February 2018. The business’s IT security analysis determines that the unauthorised third party downloaded a data file containing the names and email addresses of 5,000 customers, but concludes that there was no further unauthorised access after 10 February 2018. Because the breach occurred before 22 February 2018, notification under the NDB scheme is not required.

Example 2 – Data breach that is ongoing when the NDB scheme commences

On 1 April 2018, an organisation discovers that an employee inadvertently placed a data file containing the name and health information of its customers on a publicly accessible website. The organisation conducts an assessment, and finds that the file was placed on its website in December 2017, but was downloaded both before and after 22 February 2018. Because the data breach (namely, the unauthorised disclosure of personal information) occurred both before and after 22 February 2018, the NDB scheme applies and notification may be required.

Back to Contents

Who must comply with the NDB scheme

The NDB scheme applies to agencies and organisations that the Privacy Act requires to take steps to secure certain categories of personal information. This includes Australian Government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more, credit reporting bodies, health service providers, and TFN recipients, among others.

Read more in the Data breach preparation and response guide:

Back to Contents

Which data breaches require notification

A data breach occurs when personal information held by an organisation is lost or subjected to unauthorised access or disclosure.

The NDB scheme only applies to data breaches involving personal information that are likely to result in serious harm to any individual affected. These are referred to as ‘eligible data breaches’.

Examples of a data breach include the following incidents:

  • a device containing customers’ personal information is lost or stolen
  • a database containing personal information is hacked
  • personal information is mistakenly provided to the wrong person.

There are a few exceptions, which may mean notification is not required for certain eligible data breaches.

Read more in the Data breach preparation and response guide:

Back to Contents

Assessing suspected data breaches

Agencies and organisations that suspect an eligible data breach may have occurred must undertake a reasonable and expeditious assessment to determine if the data breach is likely to result in serious harm to any individual affected.

Read more in the Data breach preparation and response guide:

Back to Contents

How to notify

When an agency or organisation is aware of reasonable grounds to believe an eligible data breach has occurred, they must promptly notify individuals at likely risk of serious harm. The Commissioner must also be notified as soon as practicable through a statement about the eligible data breach.

The notification to affected individuals and the Commissioner must include the following information:

  • the identity and contact details of the organisation
  • a description of the data breach
  • the kinds of information concerned
  • recommendations about the steps individuals should take in response to the data breach.

The notification to the Commissioner should be made through the Notifiable Data Breach form.

Notifiable Data Breach form

Read more in the Data breach preparation and response guide:

Back to Contents

The role of the OAIC

The Commissioner has a number of roles under the NDB scheme. These include:

  • receiving notifications of eligible data breaches
  • encouraging compliance with the scheme, including by handling complaints, conducting investigations, and taking other regulatory action in response to instances of non-compliance
  • offering advice and guidance to regulated organisations, and providing information to the community about the operation of the scheme.

Read more:

Back to Contents

Data breach response summary diagram

The following diagram provides an overview of a typical data breach response, including the requirements of the NDB scheme. This diagram is a summary, and should be read with reference to the more detailed resources listed above.

pdfDownload the Data breach response summary diagram PDF62.81 KB

Back to Contents

Additional resources

Data breach preparation and response guide

The OAIC has developed the Data breach preparation and response guide  — A guide to managing data breaches in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to support the development and implementation of an effective data breach response.

This resource consolidates the information provided in our Data breach notification — A guide to handling personal information security breaches released in 2014, the Guide to developing a data breach response plan released in 2016, and the resources published to assist entities in complying with the NDB scheme.

Securing personal information

The OAIC has a comprehensive Guide to securing personal information to assist entities in implementing practices, processes, and systems to secure personal information. Regularly reviewing and updating personal information security can reduce the risk of a data breach occurring.

Obligations for Victorian public sector entities

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) has developed guidance for Victorian public sector agencies on their NDB scheme obligations.

New South Wales public sector agencies

The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) New South Wales (NSW) has created a fact sheet that outlines how the requirements of the NDB scheme apply to NSW public sector agencies.

Information from the Australian Cyber Security Centre about protecting credentials

The OAIC has worked with the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the Australian Government’s lead agency on national cyber security, on the causes of cyber security related breaches. The ACSC has provided the following mitigation strategies aimed at protecting credentials.

Back to Contents

Quarterly statistics

The OAIC publishes quarterly statistical information about notifications received under the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme to assist entities and the public to understand the operation of the scheme.

Back to Contents