The Cyber Security Advisory Committee (an industry based advisory panel established by the Minister for Home Affairs to provide independent strategic advice on Australia’s cyber security challenges) has recommended in its annual report that the federal government develop a clearer policy position on the payment of ransoms by organisations that have suffered ransomware attacks.Read More
By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards
In November 2020, accounting and consulting firm Nexia Australia (Nexia) was alerted to a “REvil” ransomware attack taking place within its system. The attackers threatened to post personal information of Nexia’s clients, customers and staff online unless it paid a $1m ransom within 72 hours.
It was reported that the hackers appeared to have posted Nexia’s confidential files onto the dark web; however, further investigation revealed that the hackers had merely posted screenshots of Nexia’s files. Realising this, Nexia dismissed the threat and refused to pay the ransom.
But it didn’t end there.
Shortly after the attack, a news service found the Nexia screenshots on the dark web and publicised that the company’s confidential information had been stolen and shared. Not only did Nexia have to reassure panicking clients that their confidential information remained uncompromised, it had to convince the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the Privacy Commissioner that nothing of concern had been taken.
It doesn’t help that ransomware-as-a-service is becoming an increasingly lucrative business for cybercriminals to launch this type of attack. All that is needed is off-the-shelf malware, a wallet of cryptocurrency and it’s ready to deploy against an unsuspecting organisation.
The attack on Nexia demonstrates that even if there is no evidence that confidential information has been leaked, organisations can still suffer significant damage. The cost of reassuring stakeholders and mitigating reputational harm can almost match the consequences of a full blown attack.
As Warren Buffet famously quoted, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”. While Nexia recovered valiantly, this serves as a lesson that even when unsuccessful, the public ramifications of a ransomware attack are not to be underestimated.
Last month, the federal opposition (Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security) introduced the private member’s Ransomware Payments Bill (the Bill) that proposes to make it mandatory for all Australian businesses and government agencies to notify the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) before paying a ransom to a ransomware attacker. Failure to notify will attract a penalty of 1,000 penalty units ($181,740).Read More
The United States Department of Homeland Security has developed the Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET) which provides a systematic (and repeatable) process that critical infrastructure asset owners can use to assess and improve their cyber security management systems. This tool has a particular focus on the security of industrial control systems and information networks.Read More
The Telecommunications Legislations Amendment (International Orders) Bill 2020 has just cleared both houses of parliament. The new bill establishes a reciprocal cross-border data access regime between the United States and Australia which will allow for cross-border communications between foreign governments for national security and law enforcement purposes.Read More
By Cameron Abbott and Jacqueline Patishman
Following a ransomware infection in late April, UnitingCare Queensland has suffered a nearly 2 month long ordeal to regain control of its systems. UnitingCare was a victim of malware called Sodinokibi/REvil which encrypted its files and attempted to delete backups.Read More
From July 1 all users of ABC’s on demand platform iview will be required to log in (and to have an account) to use the platform. It’s been reported that the former federal Privacy Commissioner, Malcolm Crompton, has been pushing to reverse the ABC’s decision, arguing that because the ABC is publically funded, Australians shouldn’t have to pay for content (which we have already paid for) with our data.Read More
It’s been reported that the Federal Government is planning on making implementation of the Essential Eight cyber security controls for all Commonwealth entities (excluding corporate Commonwealth entities). The Essential Eight is a baseline set of security strategies designed to minimise the risk of security incidents. At this stage, no guidance has been provided as to the timeline for when this might happen; however, a decision as to the preferred approach is planned to be made by the end of the year.Read More
[Editor: It has been a busy week for all Cyberwatchers, and our blog has been running hot. This however is our favourite.]
For at least the last three years the Australian Federal Police and the United Stated Federal Bureau of Investigation have been working together to run ‘Operation Ironside’ using an app called ANoM. The app has allowed law enforcement to easily monitor criminal communications and to make over 800 criminal arrests so far.Read More