Category: Breaches

1
Bypassing the Castle Walls: Tactical Exploitation of America’s Vulnerable Grid
2
Is Microsoft giving us a window to our personal data?
3
Biggest data leak in German history
4
Marriott Hotel reveals further details about records impacted by data breach; revises down number of affected records
5
Emergency warning system hacked
6
So you plug your shiny Tesla in to charge…
7
Encryption bill to give unprecedented power
8
Marriott Hotel – time to change your passwords!
9
China in breach of cyber-security pact
10
China’s main security agency linked to cyber intellectual property theft

Bypassing the Castle Walls: Tactical Exploitation of America’s Vulnerable Grid

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and Wendy Mansell

A recent Wall Street Journal Report has detailed how America’s utility grid was hacked. The Department of Homeland Security has named Russia as responsible for the overwhelmingly complex and threatening campaign.

The scheme targeted energy companies affiliated with the government and was carried out in a sophisticated manner by initially focusing on small firms within the utility supply chain.

Early techniques involved planting malware on the websites of online publications likely to be read by employees of companies within the energy sector. The hackers would lace the online publications with malicious content allowing them to steal usernames, passwords and infiltrate company systems.

A number of small firms fell victim to these tactics giving the hackers broad access to company networks. Fake emails were subsequently sent out on behalf of the affected firms containing forged and malicious Dropbox links which captured usernames, passwords and other credentials. Further they used fake personas to send emails and pretended to be job seekers, by sending resumes containing tainted attachments to energy companies.

The hackers continued this technique of sending malware emails on behalf of firms until they reached the top of the supply chain. It was reported that on at least 8 occasions the hackers infiltrated companies who had access to the industrial control systems that run the grid.

An alarming aspect was the number of affected companies that remained oblivious of the penetration. The report is a useful description of the variety of methods used to tempt employees to expose their credentials. All too easy to do. These same techniques are regularly used by more pedestrian hackers. Two factor authentication and regular password resets remain measures to limit these threats but so many organisations do not use them.

We repeatedly counsel that employees are the last line of defence for your organisation. Circulating the Report may make an interesting read to remind them of the variety of ways they can be seduced to click an incorrect link.

Is Microsoft giving us a window to our personal data?

By Cameron Abbott and Allison Wallace

We often blog on this page about personal information being breached, data being hacked, systems being compromised – and tell cautionary tales of the difficulties businesses can experience if they experience a data breach.

So what if there was a good news story? A way to know what information there is out there about you, so that if it is compromised, you can take control? Microsoft may just be working on such a solution.

Multiple websites (see here and here) have now reported on Microsoft’s “Project Bali” – which, although still in a private testing phase is accessible to a lucky few, by invite only.

The Project Bali website reportedly describes the tech giant’s project as “a new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them” and will allow users to “store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them ..[and] to visualise, manage, control, share and monetise the data”.

It is reported that the project was borne from a Microsoft Research paper in 2014 that delved into the concept of “Inverse Privacy” – allowing consumers to access the data that any given business holds about them, increasing transparency, something consumers value.

In theory, Project Bali seems like a good antidote to the increasing number of privacy incursions we are seeing (such as this and this). However, whether the idea is commercialised and becomes publicly available, only time will tell. We will keep you posted.

Biggest data leak in German history

By Rob Pulham, Warwick Anderson and Wendy Mansell

A 20 year old German man orchestrated a serious and sophisticated data breach which affected more than 1000 people.

The attack was focused on German and European politicians at all levels including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank Walter Steinmeier and hundreds of public figures and celebrities.

The 20 year old hacker took to Twitter to drip feed the information depicted as an advent calendar by releasing new data each day in December. Information exposed included contact details, credit card and financial information, chat records, photographs and other personal information.

Reuters’ reported that the hacker is a student who lives at home with his parents, has no formal computer education and was motivated by irritation over statements made by politicians and public figures.

The widespread nature of this attack has resulted in a number of government officials calling for tighter laws.

It is clear that no-one is safe from a data breach – even those elected representatives who enact the laws designed to protect against them.

Marriott Hotel reveals further details about records impacted by data breach; revises down number of affected records

By Warwick Andersen, Rob Pulham and Keely O’Dowd

Late last year the Marriott Hotel announced that it had suffered a data breach, which affected approximately 500 million guests who made a hotel reservation using its Starwood reservation system. Details about the data breach can be found in our previous blog.

Read More

Emergency warning system hacked

By Warwick Andersen, Rob Pulham and Allison Wallace

A new year, and a new hacking incident – this time, it was the Early Warning Network (EWN) – a text and email service used by councils around Australia to warn locals of emergency situations.

On its Facebook page, EWN stated that a hacker was able to access its system, sending out messages via text, email and landline stating that EWN had been hacked and that the receiver’s personal data was not safe. The message also included links to support email addresses and a website.

EWN said that the hack was quickly identified and systems shut down, with no-one’s personal information compromised during the attack. The attack is believed to have originated within Australia, involving compromised login details.

While EWN said that personal information was not compromised by this incident, it serves as a timely reminder for businesses to check and test their information security processes and data breach response plans – and if one isn’t in place, to implement one.  The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner reported that it received 550 notifications of data breaches from the time the notifiable data breach legislation commenced on 22 February 2018 to 30 September 2018.

If you’d like to find out more about the legislation, or what your business can do to protect itself, check out this 60-second video by Cameron Abbott.

So you plug your shiny Tesla in to charge…

By Cameron Abbott and Wendy Mansell

…and suddenly you are at risk of starting fires.

We all know that these days the Internet of Things is a favourite for cyberattacks, with the latest target being home charging stations for electric cars.

Many home charging stations are controlled remotely by mobile apps, which seem to provide the perfect opportunity for hackers to cause harm.

Hackers cleverly can infiltrate an account and turn charging off or even worse, they may change the current to the extent it can start a fire.

Once again the industry needs to take security seriously for IoT and have the same diligence as IT networks now do.

Encryption bill to give unprecedented power

By Cameron Abbott and Wendy Mansell

The Coalition government is attempting to pass large-scale decryption reforms which will give sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies for overt and covert computer access.

The reforms have caused significant controversy as they may force tech companies and communications providers to modify their services, creating “systemic weaknesses” for intelligence agencies to exploit. However many point out these same vulnerabilities may be utilised by criminals.

Further the potential repercussions of these reforms may undermine consumers’ privacy, safety and trust through unprecedented access to private communications. This could have anti-competitive effects, as the reputations of Australian software developers and hardware manufacturers will suffer within international markets.

At the same time, the harsh reality that terrorists and organised crime increasingly utilise these technologies to evade surveillance highlights a very clear problem for law enforcement authorities.

We won’t seek to suggest where the balance between these interests should lie, but the debate rages on. Stay tuned.

Marriott Hotel – time to change your passwords!

Authors: Cameron Abbott and Keely O’Dowd

 On Friday, 30 November 2018 the Marriott Hotel announced that it had suffered a data breach, we are all getting a little numb to large breaches but this one is one of the biggest in recent times.

The Marriott revealed that over a four year period, up to approximately 500 million guests who made a reservation using the Starwood reservation system for a hotel within the Marriott umbrella on or before 10 September 2014 may have had their data compromised. For approximately 327 million guests, information that may have been comprised includes a combination of name, address, phone number, email address, password, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, payment card numbers, arrival and departure information, reservation date and communication preferences.

Most hotel booking/POS systems have been attacked in recent years and these attacks have proven difficult to detect and trace through to understand the impact, it takes time and significant resources.  If you have used the Starwood reservation system – it is a good time to change the password and update passwords anywhere else you use those same or similar credentials.

China in breach of cyber-security pact

By Cameron Abbott and Wendy Mansell

It has been a fairly turbulent week in the cyber-espionage space following accusations that China’s Ministry of Security Services is behind the surge of intellectual property theft from Australian companies.

The news that the persistent attacks on Australian IP are perhaps a State sponsored campaign by the Chinese government is concerning as it suggests that China are in breach of several international and bilateral agreements.

In 2015, an agreement was made between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Obama, that the U.S and China would not steal intellectual property from one another for commercial gain. This was furthered at the November 2015, G20 Summit, where the cyber-theft of IP was accepted as the norm.

Following on from this in September 2017, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Kequiang promised that neither country would engage in cyber-theft of intellectual property and commercial secrets.

Reports of cyber-theft declined immediately after these agreements, however in recent months they have ramped up again.

A U.S Trade Representative report released this week confirms that despite any international agreements, China has continued engaging in cyber-espionage and the theft of intellectual property. Further the report states that not only is China likely to be in breach of these agreements, but the attacks have “increased in frequency and sophistication”.

Notably in July of this year, China was linked to the cyber-breach of Australian National University. This attack was particularly disturbing given that ANU is a leading university involved in key areas of Australian technological, scientific, defence and commercial research.  It is fascinating that cyber attacks and theft are a “norm” that is accepted within our overall international relationships.  Physical acts of a similar nature would not be so easily accepted.

China’s main security agency linked to cyber intellectual property theft

By Cameron Abbott and Wendy Mansell

In April 2017, PWC, in collaboration with BAE Systems’ published a report on “Operation Cloud Hopper”, which exposed a cyber espionage campaign being conducted by a China-based threat actor. The report suggests that Operation Cloud Hopper is almost certainly the same threat actor known as “APT10”, a Chinese group thought to be behind cyber-attacks against many countries including Japan, Canada and America.

Recently it has been reported that there are links between China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) and Operation Cloud Hopper. These allegations are from U.S based firm CrowdStrike who have recognised ties between Operation Cloud Hopper and the MSS Tianjin Bureau.

There is no confirmation that the MSS is behind the Cloud Hopper attacks, however Dr Adrian Nish, Head of Threat of Intelligence at BAE Systems said that there is “no reason to doubt” the claims.

The term “Cloud Hopper” describes a technique where cyber espionage groups “hop” from cloud storage services and infiltrate Australian IT systems. Operation Cloud Hopper is responsible for the theft of intellectual property from a number of Australian companies, primarily focused on mining, engineering and professional services firms.

In a week full of news about China activities in the region, the suggestion of state sponsored hacking thefts is a salient warning to companies that their core intellectual property assets are at risk if not well secured.

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