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PageUp blames poor post-breach media management on PR outfit

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Human resources firm PageUp People has blamed its PR agency for its failure in media management following a massive data breach that it reported in June, but has not revealed any technical details of the investigation into the breach that the company instituted.

In an email sent to its clients, which iTWire has seen, PageUp chief executive and co-founder Karen Cariss admitted that the company had been too guarded in the way it engaged with the media. The company announced the breach on 6 June.

PageUp's post-breach actions were partly guided by the American PR agency Edelman, the biggest global agency. Edelman admitted it was guiding PageUp in an email sent to iTWire in September.

"The constraints on what we could communicate impacted all of us. Our customers felt we weren’t communicating enough ― they were getting information from the media who were talking to other customers ― and our account executives felt frustrated by being unable to share information, because there was a lot of speculation but very little in the way of confirmed facts," Cariss wrote.

"Determining in advance how you will communicate in a crisis, rather than being guided by an ‘expert’ who is not aligned to the values of the business is critical. We also need to be mindful of the constraints imposed on us by Australian Federal Police and others on what and when we can communicate."

After the breach, PageUp hired security firm Hivint to assist it with incident response co-ordination and security outfit Klein & Co to do the forensics needed.

But Cariss' email did not reveal any of the detailed findings of an investigation into the breach. There was only a single line: "It [the investigation] concluded that while an attacker was successful in installing tools that could exfiltrate data, no specific evidence was found that data was exfiltrated."

However, she dealt in detail with the internal impacts of the breach on her staff, portraying them as the most affected by the incident.

"We have identified the need to build a deeper response for supporting our people into our incident response plan," Cariss wrote.

"The incident placed a significant strain on our internal team. Some team members took the frustrations of our customers personally and all were so committed to responding to the needs of our customers that they worked around the clock, causing people to be incredibly tired."

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