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Australia has been Targeted by Cyber Attackers for Months

Last edited: July 1, 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

A hacker has been targeting Australian institutions for the last couple of months. It is a large, organized attack. So far, no large amounts of data have been taken, but yesterday the government asked people to stay alert and to take measures to ensure no data will be taken in the future.

State-Based Cyber Actor

Sadly, cyberattacks have become part of everyday life. A UN representative stated recently that there is a cyberattack happening every 39 seconds somewhere in the world. And in the current lockdown circumstances when people are working from home and are more reliant on their devices, hackers see new opportunities to misuse the situation.

Australian prime minister Morrison said that the country has been targeted by hackers for a while; they have been a threat for months. “This activity is targeting Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure,” Mr Morrison said.

“We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used,” the prime minister said. He doesn’t specify who he suspects though. Insiders tell ABC News that it is highly likely that China is behind the attacks. The council of foreign relations says that China, Russia, and Iran are on the suspect list.

Create Awareness

Mr Morrison described the attacks as “malicious”. The hackers are targeting large parts of the country, that are in possession of a lot of economical, personal, and sensitive data. The kind of data you don’t want to see ending up in the wrong hands. That is why it’s important for all sectors to protect themselves from the attacks. “This is why we are raising this matter today,” he said. “To raise awareness of this important issue, to encourage organizations, particularly those in health, critical infrastructure and essential services, to take expert advice and implement technical defenses to thwart this malicious cyber activity.”

The prime minister isn’t surprised by the size and complexity of the attacks that are happening nowadays. “The actions that we are taking are the actions that we need to take and we will continue to be as vigilant as we possibly can be.” But Morrison couldn’t answer a question when he was asked about the motive for the attacks. “What is of interest to us is that it is occurring and what we are focused on is the practices that they’re employing,” he said. He added that “the best agencies in the world” are working on this and they will use all their resources to try and stop this.

Rachel Falk, the head of the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRS), agrees completely with the prime minister. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from to be honest with you,” she said. “This message, the Prime Minister, was clear … do what you need to do to protect your valuable business and personal data. Threats come from anywhere, every day of the week”.

Tips

Defense Minister Linda Reynolds reminded everyone that cybersecurity is a responsibility that we all share. Everyone needs to do what they can to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to steal data. And it doesn’t need to be that complicated. You can start with a secure password for you online accounts.

You should also install your security updates. Any weaknesses in your security will be patched when you do that. And that goes for all of your devices, not just your computer or laptop. Don’t forget your phone and tablet. A third tip is to back up your data on a regular basis. If you computer does ever get infected with a virus or some kind of malware, you won’t be left empty handed. You can save your backups on an external hard drive, but also in the cloud.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.

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