Hackers break deep into vital networks

Tuesday

Kevin Mitnick, who spent time on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for hacking 40 corporations, discusses his new book, “The Art of Invisibility,” on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. He also explains why hackers breach data with relative ease, and why we should never link our devices. Photo: iStock

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INTERNATIONAL hackers are targeting Australia’s “critical infrastructure and systems of national significance” several times a day, one of country’s most senior cyber crime fighters has warned.

The warning from Australia’s top level cyber crime investigators came as an international cyber security experts from Kaspersky Lab confirmed there had been a recent rise in cyber attacks on major Australian institutions in the health, finance and transport sectors.

Commander David McLean, manager of the Australian Federal Police’s cybercrime operations, has given an insight into the daily battle to counteract the constant wave of digital attacks, such as the high-profile WannaCry ransomware that sent cyber crime fighters scrambling ten days ago as chaos spread out across the globe.

“Cyber espionage is the stuff of Hollywood. And it’s very, very real,” Mr McLean said speaking at the CeBIT Australia cyber security conference in Sydney today.

He said the AFP and other government organisations responded to “in excess of 1000 events every year of hostile activity against critical infrastructure and systems of national significance in our country”.

“We have case work on our books at the moment involving very, very high level, very destructive in an intellectual property sense, cases of cyber espionage being perpetrated in connection with infrastructure and citizens resident in this country.”

ATMS UNDER ATTACK

Eugene Kaspersky, one of the world leaders in the cyber security field, said his firm had been recently called in after hackers infiltrated the software on the ATMs of an Australian bank.

He refused to name the bank but said the hackers had got away with an undisclosed sum before the US-based manufacturers were able to install a patch on the ATM to lock out the hackers.

Mr Kaspersky said he had been forced to add a bank of ATMs to the computers and smartphones in his cyber security labs so he could detect the ever growing number of malicious programs aimed at the banking industry.

He said the challenge for those fighting hackers was that cyber crime paid so well.

Mr Kaspersky said cybercrime cost the world $600 billion a year _ or enough to fund every AFL team for the next 2600 years.

DEFENSIVE CAMPAIGN

Minister for Innovation, Innovation and Science said Arthur Sinodinos said “we are very serious about promoting our role in cyber security _ we want to be the best in the world”.

Commander McLean said the AFP was still investigating the Distributed Denial of Service attack that shut down the Australian Bureau of Statistics website in what became known as “Censusfail”.

“That’s proving very, very challenging just in terms of scale,” he said.

Other major cases of cyber crime targeting Australian companies involve targeted theft and blackmail campaigns

“We have got some very, very significant Australian companies that are being extorted in terms of information being stolen from there in terms of data breaches and then trying to negotiate the return of that information,” Commander McLean said.

Another key area of cyber attack he identified were “threats to critical infrastructure”.

CRITICAL DATA COMPROMISED

“We have got ongoing case work at the moment involving critical disruptions to providers in this country who were the victim of hostile malicious activity from off shore,” he’s said.

“Their systems were penetrated, significant amounts of data were exfiltrated and we’re still trying to work out where that information was passed, to whom and for what purpose.”

Security experts warn there is a new type of ransomware created every day with attacks becoming commonplace.

But Commander McLean said there could be some good to come from the high profile of the WannaCry ransomware attack that shut down hospitals and factories in Europe and Asia.

“When I think about events like WannaCry, when I think about cyber security risks, I’m reminded of the public health campaigns of the late seventies and early eighties around skin cancer and ‘slip, slop, slap’ and the Grim Reaper,” he said.

“It really captured the conscientious of this country. The message was very powerful. I think we need to see the re-emergence of that sort of approach to try and inoculate the community at large.”

Commander McLean said a recent survey by the AFP found that 60 per cent of Australian businesses had suffered a cyber attack which had infiltrated their security and had a tangible impact on their business.

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