CANBERRA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The private cell phone numbers of almost every Australian federal MP were accidentally published online by a government department, an embarrassing gaffe which cyber security experts have described as dangerous.
According to Fairfax Media, the nation's Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) did not adequately delete the private details of MPs and Senators from the website.
Instead of deleting the data, the phone numbers left on the document in white font; while they're invisible when reading on a screen or document, they could easily be revealed by highlighting or copy and pasting the numbers.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was one of just a few ministers to not have their cell phone numbers leaked - along with other high-ranking MPs Treasurer Scott Morrison and Attorney-General George Brandis - but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and other Labor MPs were all affected.
The DPS said the error was the fault of a private contractor, TELCO Management, but it was working to ensure all current and former ministers' private details were now secure.
A spokesperson for the department told Fairfax Media the DPS had offered to issue new cell phone numbers to those who felt vulnerable after the mistake.
"In the most recent report provided by the contractor, it became possible to view the official mobile phone number of parliamentarians and their staff even though they appeared redacted from the published files," the spokesperson said.
"The DPS removed the documents from the APH website shortly after it was alerted to the issue and is working with the contractor to investigate the cause."
"The DPS will work with parliamentarians to address privacy concerns and change mobile numbers if required."
Meanwhile cyber security expert Greg Austin told Fairfax the leak was not good and could provide foreign intelligence agencies with crucial, private information about Australia's government.
"This sort of data can form part of an intelligence picture for foreign intelligence agencies and can be used in a number of ways after that," Austin said.
"Knowing the private phone numbers of these people also helps foreign intelligence agencies form a view of who is talking to who."
The cell phone numbers were reportedly online for more than three months, but have since been deleted.