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Under Attack / Massive ‘State based’ cyber attack of Australian organisations

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed Australian organisations are being targeted by a "sophisticated state-based cyber actor” in an address to media this morning...
cyber security attack

NATALIE JOHNSON

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed Australian organisations are being targeted by a “sophisticated state-based cyber actor” in an address to media this morning.

  • ⟼ Attack targeting all levels of government, political, business, education, and health organisations
  • ⟼ Attack identified as large scale and believed to be the work of a foreign government
  • ⟼ Top three states capable of sponsoring cyber operations are China, Russia, and Iran; however, government will not publicly say which foreign country they believe is behind the attacks

The Prime Minister advised the cyber-attack, targeting a range of sectors and organisations including all levels of government, political, education, health, essential services and other critical infrastructure was believed to be state-based due to the, “nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used.”  However, Mr Morrison would not be drawn on the country of origin when asked directly if he believed China to be involved. (1)  

Mr Morrison commented, “there aren’t too many state-based actors who have those capabilities,” (2) with the Council on Foreign Relations noting China, Russia and Iran are the top three foreign states suspected of sponsoring cyber operations.

The Prime Minister advised the attacks could be described as malicious and confirmed they “have thwarted many, but this is a very complex area,” and the government were raising the issue today not to raise concerns, but to ensure the public was aware of the threat. 

So far, it did not appear there had been any large-scale breaches of people’s personal information.

Noting although many organisations had been targeted by cyber-attack, Mr Morrison advised, “in terms of their success, that is not as significant,” reassuring the public, “we have some of the best agencies in the world … working on this and that means that they are putting all of their efforts into thwarting these attempts.” (1)

Mr Morrison lamented the, “fact that these threats present is not a surprise in this world in which we now live,” however the actions the government were taking were, “actions that we need to take and we will continue to be as vigilant as we possibly can be.” (1)

The motivation of the attacks is unclear; however, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has urged organisations to protect their networks from cyber-attack, noting there was no doubt an increase in the frequency, scale and sophistication of cyber activity was occurring, reminding Australians, “cybersecurity is a shared responsibility of us all.” (2)

“Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility of us all”

DEFENCE MINISTER LINDA REYNOLDS

Investigations into the hacking attempt were continuing and discussions in progress with Australia’s allies including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson whom Mr Morrison spoke with overnight.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre and Department of Home Affairs have updated its technical advice, which outlines the steps to detect and mitigate such threats. It is available at cyber.gov.au.

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