Data breaches surge throughout Australia

More than 30 per cent of Australians have been exposed to data breaches in the last year as cyber attacks continue to spike across the country.

A new Australian National University poll found 6.4 million adults have fallen victim to data breaches, with 41.5 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 falling into that category.

It's generating an appetite for action among citizens, with the survey also finding 96 per cent of Australian adults want companies sanctioned by governments when breaches happen.

The survey comes off the back of large scale data breaches against Optus and Medibank.

There was also an attempted hack against the marriage celebrants database in the past three weeks.

No data was stolen and the system was quickly patched.

"We followed our routine incident response processes ... and had that particular incident addressed with 48 hours," Michael Harrison from the attorney-general's department told Senate estimates on Monday.

ANU study co-author Nicholas Biddle said cyber attacks were quickly becoming one of the more prevalent crimes in Australia.

"In comparison our survey found only 11.2 per cent of Australians had been the victim of serious crimes like burglary or assault in the last five years," he said.

"As our lives become more and more dominated by data, so too does our exposure to data-related crime. This is a serious issue that needs serious attention."

Confidence in some institutions to maintain data privacy has also dramatically fallen, with telecommunications scored by the public just a 4.08 out of 10 in terms of trust to keep that information safe.

Social media companies remain the least trusted institution for data safety at just 2.94 out of 10.

Professor Biddle said people want to see governments doing more to both protect consumers and punish companies.

"Breaches like the Optus breach clearly impact on trust in the whole system of data governance, and Australians are crying out for stronger regulation and better protection."

The government introduced new laws last month to increase fines for companies involved in data breaches, with the maximum fine raised from $2.2 million to at least $50m.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Karen Andrews wants those who use ransomware to face a maximum of 10 years in prison, while people targeting critical infrastructure could be sentenced to 25 years behind bars.