Every country has been prone to cyber-attacks using different trends and methodologies. Cyber-attackers tend to attack systems in order to either get hold of confidential data or to cause harm to the network. This report discussed the various cyber-attacks on the Australian Government websites and agencies. This report also discussed some of the major cyber-attacks faced by the Australian Government under different hypothesis and its potential causes and mitigation techniques.
The first hypothesis discussed the cyber-attack on the Australian parliament which led to the data breach of confidential information including tax and foreign policies. The second hypothesis discussed the data leak at the Perth Mint under which the details of its customers who had used a third-party website to either sell or purchase precious metals were compromised. The hypothesis discussed the possible courses of action which could help mitigate the risks and the effects of such cyber-attacks. The report formulated some recommendations which include the different tools and procedures which can be followed to reduce the effect and causes of similar cyber-attacks.
Table of Contents
Many countries in the World have been prone to cyber-attacks. Computer crime and cyber terrorism has been increasing as organizations and industries have been making use of digital devices to replace traditional means of conducting various processes. Among some of the leading countries of the World, Australia has been prone to many cyber-attacks through the years. Depending on the number of cyber-attacks which focused on Australia, the country holds the sixth position in the list of countries with most cyber-attacks followed by Ukraine (Which 50, 2020). This report discusses some of the recent cyber-attacks aimed at the Australian Government through various hypothesis. The report also discusses some of the potential gaps and strategies which can be utilized to lower the risks and mitigate the effects of these cyber-attacks and also formulate various recommendations to help curb the risks related to such attacks.
The Australian Parliament was said to be under a cyber-attack in 2019 which was suspected to be caused due to the Chinese Government as determined by the Australian Intelligence. The attack was aimed at the national parliament and the other three largest political parties of the country (Packham, 2019).
The findings of the investigation carried out by the Australian Cyber Intelligence Agency suggested that the attack had caused disruptions in the networks and had breached the network of the Australian National Parliament. The attack was said to have accessed the networks of the ruling Liberal Party, the coalition party and the rural-based National party and the opposition labor party. The breach granted the attackers access to confidential government documents such as the tax and foreign policies and private emails between the lawmakers, its staff and citizens (Packham, 2019).
A potential gap which led to the network breach of the Australian Parliament could have been due to the lack of standards to secure the connection leading to external websites. As per Iggulden and Greenbank (2019), the breach could have been caused due to a small number of users who had visited the legitimate external websites which had been compromised, hence compromising one of the most secure networks of the country.
The course of action which the Australian Government can follow is to emphasize on its cyber security plans and strategies. As per the reports, the Government had focused on imparting better powers and technical capabilities to monitor networks and detect, target and prevent potential cyber threats including the dark web as a part of cyber strategy to strengthen the country’s digital infrastructure (Minister of Home Affairs, 2020). Some of high-end responses which can be utilized not only by Governmental networks but every network in the country is by making use of high availability of failover options. Most network monitoring systems are a subset of the network being monitored but in cases of network failure, the entire monitoring strategy might also fail, hence, high availability through failover can assure that the monitoring systems does not hold a single point of failure so even when the network goes down, the monitoring system is accessible and working.
The Perth Mint which is considered as the country’s official bullion mint and is ministered by the Government of Western Australia had suffered a data breach in 2018. The data breach which was considered to be the second data leak in two years was investigated to have compromised the data of more than a thousand people. The data breach was found to have affected 13 people which was later verified to be 3200 (Kirk, 2018).
The consequences of the data breach were found to severe leading to the release of the details of thousands of customers including their names, addresses, passport numbers and bank account details. The customers were believed to have purchased or sold gold or other precious metals through a secure online trading platform (Hendry, 2018). The mint had confirmed that the data leak had been taken place following the cyber-attack on one of the employees of the IT service provider who provided database storage to the mint. The Perth based company Metrix Consulting was responsible for storing the information of around 1480 people relating to feed surveys including personal details of the survey participants. The data leak had taken place following the phishing attack on an employee of the company.
The database was said to be managed by a third-party IT provider. Third party service providers can be ought to use their own third-party systems which could lead to weaker approaches to mitigate cyber-attacks such as data breaches. The organization might step up effective standards and protocols but its third-party service provider might incorporate other parties in providing a solution to the organization causing a back door for attacks.
A low-end response method in such cases can be understanding the working methodologies of third-party vendors and checking if the back and front-end processes are as per the industrial standards which can help build an effective system. A better approach at mitigating such risks which form the medium to high-end responses include the study and understanding of the vulnerabilities which a system might face and formulating procedures and contingency plans for those risks identified. Proper training of employees against phishing attacks can also be termed as a medium-end response to lower the risks of such cyber threats. Other ways to prevent phishing attacks include identifying shortened links, updating the security patches of the systems and servers, usage of web-filters, encrypting crucial information, making use of security policies, deploying various spam filters to detect viruses and bland senders.
The number of cyber-attacks on Australian organizations especially on the Government agencies and departments has been increasing at an alarming rate. Many officials of the Government including the Prime Minister of the country had considered these attacks on the Government and its officials a state-based attack (Probyn and Dziedzic, 2020). This report discussed some of the major cyber-attacks aimed at the Government and its agencies. Hypothesis 1 discusses the cyber-attack on the Parliament which was aimed at the ruling party and other leading parties of the Government and resulted in the leak of confidential information. The second hypothesis discusses the data breach which took place at the Perth Mint resulting in a leak of personal information of more than 1000 customers of the mint.
Following the increase in frequency and sophistication levels of cyber-attacks on the Australian Government and its departments, recommendations play a crucial role as they not only form the basis for prevention methods of these attacks but also help mitigate their effects. The first hypothesis discussed the attack on the Parliament which led to breaches in the network and was caused because some of the users over the network who had visited an external website (Iggulden and Greenbank, 2019). According to Srinivas, Das and Kumar (2018), formation of a cyber-security incident management can play a major role in averting the chances of a cyber-attack. The management plan can be divided into various levels with dedicated operations. The levels correspond to the different components of the plan namely the technology infrastructure, security operations and computer emergency responses.
Data breaches can be caused due to various reasons hence, there are many ways to mitigate the risks of a data breach caused due to an attack on a database. Blockchains have been a leading technology implemented by Governments to leverage digital technologies and secure citizen information assets. This technology has various benefits including reduced economic costs and bureaucracy, increased automation, transparency, auditability, and accountability. This technology has also led to the increased trust of the citizens and organizations in governmental processes (Allessie, Sobolewski and Vaccari, 2019). The breach at the Perth Mint was a caused due to a phishing attack on one of the employees of the database service provider of the mint. The various tools and procedures which can help mitigate the chances of a phishing attack include zero-day phishing detection, multi stage phishing detection, deceptive voice phishing detection and phishing detection using the ranking-based method (Aleroud and Zhou, 2017).
Which 50. 2020. Australia is one of the most targeted by significant cyber attacks: report. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://which-50.com/australia-is-one-of-the-most-targeted-by-significant-cyber-attacks-report/>
Packham, C. 2019. Exclusive: Australia concluded China was behind hack on parliament, political parties – sources. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-china-cyber-exclusive-idUSKBN1W00VF>
Iggulden, T. & Greenbank, A. 2019. Parliament House thwarts recent cyber attack as cause of January hack is revealed. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-15/cyber-attack-thwarted-on-parliament-house/11706444>
Minister of Home Affairs. 2020. Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://www.pm.gov.au/media/australias-2020-cyber-security-strategy>
Kirk, J. 2018. Perth Mint Says 3,200 Customers Affected By Data Breach. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/perth-mint-says-3200-customers-affected-by-data-breach-a-11521>
Henry, J. 2018. Thousands affected in Perth Mint data breach revision. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020.
Probyn, A. & Dzidric, S. 2020. Cyber attacks on Australia blurring the lines between peace and war, Defence Minister says. Accessed on 26 Sept. 2020. <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-04/cyber-attacks-on-australia-peace-war-defence-minister/12626396>
Srinivas, J., Das, A.K. & Kumar, N. 2019. Government regulations in cyber security: Framework, standards and recommendations. Future Generation Computer Systems. 92. pp.178-188.
Allessie, D., Sobolewski, M., Vaccari, L. & Pignatelli, F. 2019. Blockchain for digital government. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
Aleroud, A. & Zhou, L. 2017. Phishing environments, techniques, and countermeasures: A survey. Computers & Security. 68. pp.160-196.
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