Cyber criminals have been targeting Australia’s government and institutions, with widespread attacks covering essential services and businesses, as well as all levels of government, according to prime minister Scott Morrison.
He went on to say that these incidents have been taking place over many months and are increasing, although he didn’t identify a specific state actor and added that no major personal data breaches had been seen, the BBC reports.
Although Mr Morrison didn’t make mention of any specific cases, he did say the attacks had spanned “government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure”.
In the past, accounting firms, government contractors and defence manufacturers have all reported data breaches in the past. In 2019, the Australian National University said it had been targeted, with staff and student details accessed.
And the main political parties and parliament also had to face a “malicious intrusion” early last year, which was put down to a sophisticated state actor.
In the UK, the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey for 2019 revealed that 32 per cent of businesses and 22 per cent of charities identified cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months, with the average annual costs for both emerging as £4,180 and £9,470 respectively.
It was noted that, although fewer businesses are now identifying attacks or breaches than before, those that have experienced incidents of this kind are typically experiencing more of them.
The most common types of breach were found to be phishing attacks, others impersonating organisations either over email or online, and viruses, spyware or malware, which includes ransomware attacks.
One possible explanation given for the fact that fewer businesses are identifying breaches is that they are becoming more cyber secure generally, with the survey finding that since 2018 companies have increased their planning and defences to safeguard against cyber attacks.
But it could also be down to a change in attacker behaviour, with more breaches being focused on a narrower range of businesses.
Somewhat concerningly, the report did find that where data or assets were lost through cyber security breaches, the financial costs have risen consistently since 2017.
However, it seems that both businesses and charities are taking the threats seriously, with the study also finding that more organisations than ever before have been taking positive steps to improve cyber security.
Some 78 per cent of businesses and 75 per cent of charities said that this was a high priority for senior management, compared to 74 per cent and 53 per cent in 2018. Written cyber security policies are now more common and both businesses and charities are now more likely to have had staff attend specific cyber security training in the year leading up to the publication of the report.
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