Australia

The Australian Government Just Announced It's Under State-Sponsored Cyber Attack and Has Been for Months

The origin of the attack, and motive, remain unclear.
19 June 2020, 2:49am
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australia is under attack by foreign hackers, although at this point their origin and motives are unclear. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with the Australian Cyber Security Centre, announced on Friday morning that "a sustained targeting of Australian governments and companies by a sophisticated state-based actor" had been underway for several months.

"This activity is targeting Australians 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," Morrison said. "We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the trade craft used."

Morrison described the cyber attacks as “malicious”.

"This is why we are raising this matter today, to raise awareness of this important issue," he said. "To encourage organisations, particularly those in the health, critical infrastructure and essential services to take expert advice and implement technical defences to thwart this malicious cyber activity."

It’s as yet unclear who might be behind the cyber attacks. China, Russia and Iran are the top three states suspected of sponsoring these kinds of operations, according to the Council on Foreign Relations—but Morrison suggested the Federal Government’s understanding of the attack didn’t meet “the threshold” for them to be able to say for sure, and they would not be making "any public attribution”.

“I raise this not to raise the concerns of Australians but in many ways to reassure Australians that we understand what’s going on here and we are addressing it to best of our capabilities and we’re in a position to do that better than most countries in the world,” he added. “We know what is going on. We’re on it but it is a day-to-day task that we’re applied to and we will continue to do that to keep Australians safe.

“This is a very complex area and it requires constant persistence and application and that’s what they’re doing.”

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has published guidelines for what businesses should do in light of the cyber attacks.

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