Aussie cyber attacks: What you need to know

 

Australian businesses and government agencies are under attack, with Channel 9 the latest high-profile firm to fall victim an online intrusion.

There are also questions over whether over whether the Parliament House email system was hacked over the weekend, two years after a successful cyber attack by suspected foreign spies.

This is what you need to know - and what we know so far - about the attacks targeting Australia.

 

Channel 9’s reads the nightly news bulletin from Melbourne after a cyber attack took the network’s Sydney studios offline.
Channel 9’s reads the nightly news bulletin from Melbourne after a cyber attack took the network’s Sydney studios offline.

 

Who is behind the online attack?

It's not clear whether money-hungry cyber criminals or foreign spies are responsible for causing chaos within Channel 9 studios.

A spokeswoman for the network said the broadcaster was still "working to continue operations and investigate" the attack on its Sydney headquarters today.

Internet security experts and researchers point to ransomware gangs as the most likely attackers, though the amount of disruption caused could point to a nation state attack.

Speculation is circulating that Russian hackers could be behind the break-in, based on the subject of an upcoming episode of Nine's Under Investigation show, but experts say it is not enough to prove its involvement.

 

Is this the first time a media organisation has been targeted?

The attack on Channel 9 is potentially the largest and most disruptive attack on an Australian media organisation to date but it is not the first.

Network 10 was reportedly attacked in November 2019, just before its broadcast of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Reports said production documents and employee information was exposed by the criminals, leaving the company scrambling to rebuild its systems.

Another high profile attack on a TV network took place in France in April 2015, when the broadcasting system of TV5Monde was destroyed by malicious software.

An organisation with links to the Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack but a later investigation found it was more likely to be the work of Russian hackers.

 

Former national cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon says the Nine Network’s hacking should serve as a “wake up call”. Picture: Roy Van Der Vegt
Former national cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon says the Nine Network’s hacking should serve as a “wake up call”. Picture: Roy Van Der Vegt

 

What do the attackers want?

If security researchers are correct, the criminals behind the attack on Channel 9 are simply after a payday.

Ransomware attacks have skyrocketed over the past year, along with a rise in ransoms extracted from their victims.

A recent study by Palo Alto Networks found ransoms paid to hackers to retrieve information or avoid leaks soared by 171 per cent last year to $US312,493.

If nation state attackers are behind this case, they may simply want to create disruption in Australia and prove a political point.

 

Australian officials have been urged to publicly call out attacks by foreign spies to prevent future attacks.
Australian officials have been urged to publicly call out attacks by foreign spies to prevent future attacks.

 

Who will be targeted in future attacks?

While other media organisations may be targeted in coming weeks based on the success of the criminals behind the Channel 9 attack, all high-profile, profitable businesses in Australia are at risk, experts warn.

Former national cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon told News Corp this week's events should serve as a "wake up call whether it's a criminal or a nation state" behind the attacks.

"We have to accept that this threat is significant and likely to impact every business or government enterprise in the country," he said.

"These aren't black swan events any more that you can't predict. We've moved to it being inevitable that there will be these incidents."

Other security experts have called for Australian officials to publicly call out attacks by foreign spies to prevent future attacks, and for greater investment in cyber security.

Sophos Australia and New Zealand director John Donovan said "we're going to see these kinds of attacks only increase" until Australia addresses it "cybersecurity industry skills shortage" and a lack of investment from big firms.

"What we're seeing is that IT teams are increasingly frustrated by leadership's apparent underestimation of the significant threat levels faced and this goes for all sectors," he said. "No industry is immune to cyber attack."

Originally published as Aussie cyber attacks: What you need to know



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