CyberWatch: Australia

Insight on how cyber risk is being mitigated and managed in Australia and across the globe.

 

1
Ransomware attacks – is there harm even when nothing is stolen?
2
Would mandatory reporting of ransomware payments cause more good or trouble?
3
New Cyber Security Evaluation Tool released by US Homeland Security for organisations to self-test their security systems
4
New US / Aus cross-border data access regime
5
REvil strikes again – ransomware attack on UnitingCare Queensland
6
Is ABC’s mandatory login into ABC iview legal?
7
Essential Eight cyber security controls to be mandated for almost all federal departments and agencies
8
Victorian Government QR Code Service now compulsory for all workplaces and businesses
9
The AFP and FBI developed ANoM app secretly distributed among criminals used to make over 800 criminal arrests worldwide
10
Other Australian companies attacked by the same ransomware attack on the JBS meat processing company

Ransomware attacks – is there harm even when nothing is stolen?

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.

Would mandatory reporting of ransomware payments cause more good or trouble?

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen and Jacqueline Patishman

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).

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New Cyber Security Evaluation Tool released by US Homeland Security for organisations to self-test their security systems

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen and Jacqueline Patishman

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.

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New US / Aus cross-border data access regime

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen and Jacqueline Patishman

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.

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REvil strikes again – ransomware attack on UnitingCare Queensland

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.

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Is ABC’s mandatory login into ABC iview legal?

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen and Jacqueline Patishman

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. 

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Essential Eight cyber security controls to be mandated for almost all federal departments and agencies

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen, Rob Pulham and Jacqueline Patishman

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.

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Victorian Government QR Code Service now compulsory for all workplaces and businesses

By Cameron AbbottRob Pulham and Jacqueline Patishman

All Victorian workplaces businesses and venue operators must now use the free Victorian Government QR Code Service (or use a third-party system that links back to the government’s interface) to meet their contact tracing obligations.

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The AFP and FBI developed ANoM app secretly distributed among criminals used to make over 800 criminal arrests worldwide

By Cameron AbbottWarwick Andersen and Jacqueline Patishman

[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.

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