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When it announced its decision to sell Landgate’s automated land titling service, the McGowan Government said personal privacy and security protections would be maintained.

Hackers expose electronic property settlement risk

EARLIER this month conveyancers warned big sums of money were being blindly transferred in electronic property settlements in the hope they reached their intended destination or recipient.

In Concerns about property transfers, (Echo News, June 9) Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA executive officer Dion Dosualdo said there were no safe guards in PEXA to confirm or authenticate financial transfers as a means of verifying recipient details. 

Now two instances of hacking have exposed further vulnerabilities of using PEXA, which is Australia’s first electronic lodgement network.

Midland-based Landgate has a 12 per cent shareholding in PEXA, which is the network through which the McGowan Government has set a December 1 deadline for all settlement agents and lawyers involved in property sales to electronically carry out all property transfers, discharge of mortgages and withdrawal of caveats.

This has divided and concerned many conveyancers and according to East Metropolitan MLC Charles Smith led to some members of Parliament including cross-bench members being prepared to move a Disallowance motion.

About a fortnight after Mr Dosualdo warned about the lack of safeguards on PEXA The Age reported that $250,000 was hacked from a conveyancer’s account while former MasterChef contestant Dani Venn and her family’s property was being settled on PEXA.

On June 27 the McGowan Government announced it had decided to sell Landgate’s automated land titling service and use the proceeds to fund WA’s participation in the national redress scheme.

In a statement Lands Minister Rita Saffioti and Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the decision to commercialise Landgate’s automated land titling service would not lead to any forced redundancies and that personal privacy and security protections would be maintained.

The same day in an online response to reported incidents PEXA said following an incident reported to it on May 31, PEXA had sped up existing plans to introduce multi-factor verification, which was on track for delivery within the next few weeks.

“When PEXA was alerted to a second incident, we immediately increased our monitoring of potential unusual activity surrounding password resets, new user creations and changes to BSB and account numbers,’’ the post said.

“We have been actively contacting practitioners to confirm any such activity is legitimate and continue to do so.’’

Mr Dosualdo said the hacking instances confirmed the warning the institute gave earlier this month.

“To PEXA’s credit they have taken immediate steps to ensure enhancements that would safe guard against incursions by cyber criminals as well as provide a guarantee to cover loss to consumers, however, the matter of transferring funds blindly without authentication or verification highlights an issue we expect will lead to more frauds. 

“How many more unfortunate families have to face the uncertainty of financial loss or homelessness before the matter is taken seriously? 

“When will we see a guarantee from the banks for all electronic fund transfers? 

“It might not be the fastest method but until such time as the banks start offering a guarantee it would appear the safest way to transfer money is in person and by cheque.’’

By Anita McInnes

 

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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