CyberWatch: Australia

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

 

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Cyber attacks becoming common place: Different industries, similar methods
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Major political parties join the Federal Parliament in the February data breach
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To encrypt or not encrypt? That is the question
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Q4 NOTIFIABLE DATA BREACHES CONTINUE TO RISE
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Bypassing the Castle Walls: Tactical Exploitation of America’s Vulnerable Grid
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K&L Gates Supports Safer Internet Day 2019
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Is Microsoft giving us a window to our personal data?
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Biggest data leak in German history
9
Marriott Hotel reveals further details about records impacted by data breach; revises down number of affected records
10
Emergency warning system hacked

Cyber attacks becoming common place: Different industries, similar methods

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

Popular car manufacturer Toyota has been hit by a malicious attack rendering their employees completely unable to access their emails. It is unclear whether any customer or employee data has been accessed, and Toyota is going to extensive efforts to discover the origin of the attack.

Staff who are powering on despite their access restrictions have been told to use face-to-face, phone and text communication until the emailing system is back online. Can you imagine!

Although the central server system is inaccessible, dealerships are continuing to operate normally besides being able to provide customers with the date they’ll receive their exciting new car.

Additionally, Melbourne Heart Group was subject to a cyber attack which completely locked them out of their filing system. 15,000 files were scrambled and held for ransom after a cyber crime syndicate hacked into their server, blocked all access to files and demanded a cryptocurrency payment be made.

Melbourne Heart Group is based at Cabrini Hospital in Malvern, but the separation of their systems ensured that no Cabrini operations were affected. Even though a payment was made to decrypt their servers, information including patient details and sensitive medical records are yet to be recovered.

Payment in these situations is always troubling, dealing with faceless individuals, having to trade in cryptocurrencies in order to chart a course to the fastest resolution.

Major political parties join the Federal Parliament in the February data breach

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

Following an unprecedented surge in cyber attacks against Australian businesses, an attack on Australia’s political infrastructure was imminent. New information reveals that the cyber attack against the Federal Parliament earlier this year was accompanied by yet another directed towards the Liberal, Labour and National parties.

While the malicious culprit starting poking around last November, the full throttle attack didn’t come along until 3 months later. Australia’s political institutions are high value targets for foreign entities, as they’re relatively small organisations with a huge storage of voter and community data.

It’s the distinctive sophistication of this ‘state actor’ attack that has furthered overt suspicions of foreign state agent involvement. Technical experts reported that the infiltration was the first of its kind, ringing alarm bells across the Government to strengthen security against foreign espionage and increase cyber capabilities.

Authorities are trying to calm the masses by reporting that no electoral information was taken, but they also have no idea what data was taken, or what the motives were behind it.

Various media publications have wasted no time trying to connect the dots between these incidents. A whopping 78% increase in attacks on Australian businesses, upcoming elections in May and precarious ties with suspected countries fuel their prophecies. This may be the wake up call needed to ensure the integrity of our electoral system and avoid our very own version of the alleged foreign interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

To encrypt or not encrypt? That is the question

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

In response to the new controversial anti-encryption laws, Australian tech heavyweights have banded together to kick and scream over the restrictive implications the laws are already having on their industry.

Quick history lesson; the Assistance and Access Bill permit law enforcement to demand companies running applications such as Whatsapp to allow “lawful access to information”. This can be through either decryption of encrypted technology, or providing access to communications which are not yet encrypted. These ‘backdoors’ are intended to provide the good guys with the opportunity to fight serious crime, however there’s serious fear that in reality, these doors could throw out privacy or let in unwanted guests.

While the legislation states that backdoors should only be created if it doesn’t result in any ‘systemic weakness’; this is yet to be defined in a concrete and informative way. Industry points out that once created any such measure has the potential to be exploited by others. There is no such thing as a “once” only back door.

There is little doubt that this will end up in litigation as larger industry players challenge the abstract concepts in the legislation against the reality of their technology.

StartupAUS, an industry group of tech executives, have made several recommendations to amend the legislation. Even though they’re not holding their breath for any significant changes, they’re demanding more transparency around the requirements. Their recommendations include scrapping the requirement for an employee to build capabilities to intercept communications, tightening the scope of ‘designated communication providers’, giving oversight on how companies will be targeted and increasing what constitutes a ‘serious offence’.

Australia’s legislative response to the problem faced by law enforcement is one of the most heavy handed in the democratic world, and now has the world of technology companies with their significant impact on our economy watching the latest debate on reforms with great concern.

Q4 NOTIFIABLE DATA BREACHES CONTINUE TO RISE

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Ella Richards.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has released its fourth quarter report of notifiable data breaches between October – December 2018.

The report exposed that the OAIC received 262 notifications of data breaches, which has increased from the 245 notifications that were reported the previous quarter. Below are the key findings from their report:

  • The OAIC report identified the top five sectors who reported data breaches. Private health service providers reported 54 breaches, the finance sector reported 40 breaches, professional services reported 23 breaches, private education providers reported 21 breaches and the mining and manufacturing industry has made its first appearance with a reported 12 breaches.
  • 85% of data breaches involved individual’s contact details, 47% involved financial details, 36% involved identity details, 27% involved health details, 18% involved tax file numbers, and 9% involved other types of personal information.
  • The sources of breach varied, with 64% of data breaches due to malicious or criminal attack, 33% due to human error, and 3% due to system faults.
  • The report also breaks down the breach types per industry. Interestingly, the finance sector experienced the most malicious cyber attacks, and human error dominated the healthcare sector.

Even though 60% of the total breaches involved personal information of 100 individuals or fewer, there were a couple of notifications affecting a significantly higher number of individuals (including one that affected more than 1 million individuals). Human error breaches resulting in the unauthorised disclosure of personal information (via unintended release or publication) impacted an average of more than 17,000 individuals per breach (though this average seems likely to have been skewed by some particularly large breaches), and the failure to securely dispose of personal information affected an average of 300 individuals per breach.

Most data breaches resulted from malicious attacks which gain access through compromised credentials (such as phishing emails or stolen username and passwords). So, if you believe that the email from your CEO requesting your bank details for your exorbitant raise is legitimate, think again!

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.

K&L Gates Supports Safer Internet Day 2019

By Cameron Abbott and Wendy Mansell

Today is Safer Internet Day and K&L Gates is a proud supporter of this yearly international event which raises awareness of cyber issues and online safety concerns.

K&L Gates has a strong focus on promoting and advocating for a safer internet through the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project. This project helps victims of non-consensual pornography known as ‘revenge porn’ by providing pro bono legal assistance to individuals suffering from these cybercrimes.

Revenge porn is a serious invasion of privacy and K&L Gates assists in having the images removed from the internet. This cyber epidemic is taking place around the world and due to K&L Gates global legal presence, these services can be provided to victims internationally.

K&L Gates further supports Safer Internet Day through the working relationship being built with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner,who is responsible for coordinating the event in Australia.

The theme for this year’s event is “Together for a better internet“, which encourages the development of respect, responsibility, reasoning and resilience skills when using the internet. K&L Gates is actively striving for a better internet through focusing on improving online safety and fighting against cybercrimes.

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.

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