“Imagine trying to do COVID without electricity” - Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs of Australia

Recent cyber-attacks have shown its crippling effect on Australian organisations. Federal Parliament,1 Channel Nine,2 West Australian Parliament3 and some of Queensland’s major hospitals4 are just some of the organisations that have felt the repercussions of these attacks. 

Home Affairs have recently voiced its concerns of a cyber-attack on Australia's critical infrastructure. In response, the Federal Government has proposed new legislation to protect Australia’s assets in critical sectors including water, health, energy and transport. Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo believes the threat to our nation’s electricity network is real, “immediate” and “realistic”. It gives rise to the concerning concept of, what happens if we fall victim to a cyber-attack on our electricity sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

General

What we see is a lot of corporate entities failing to meet necessary cybersecurity standards in order to protect themselves and anyone virtually connected. Cyber criminals tend to chase these larger opportunities such as corporate systems and critical sectors such as the resource and government sectors. Although, cyber criminals do not discriminate, as such, individuals’ personal computers and WIFI’s are still valid targets. One reason for this is possibly vulnerability.

Those that are hacked are often asking, ‘why me?’. Cyber criminals are often not after you and your home computer content, but after a trusted relationship you have with someone higher up. Leapfrogging off your system and compromising your system all in one go.5 With a reported average of 164 cybercrime reports made by Australians every day (about one report every 10 minutes), what can be done?6

What can we do?

The Assistant Minister for Defence, Honourable Andrew Hastie MP said, “just as we shouldn’t leave our doors and windows open at home, nor should be leave our technology security software outdated”.7 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic more individuals began working from home. Meetings and day-to-day conversations had to be converted to online platforms. It is evident that cyber communication is at an all-time high. Consequently, we each bear a degree of personal responsibility to ensure our data is protected in a time where cyber breaches are an often occurrence.
   
Although it is not possible to protect yourself 100% from cyber criminals, there are ways of which you can increase your protection:

1. Update your systems software

Outdated systems provide an open platform for malware attacks. Ensure all system updates are completed. Software companies will release new protections into their updates, so ensure ‘system update’ prompts are not ignored. Alternatively, set your updates to happen automatically.

2. Passwords

It can be frustrating having numerous passwords for different applications, yet it provides a robust protection to you if one of your applications are hacked.

Create new passwords often and change them regularly. Use a unique combination of numbers, letters and case types each time.

3. Anti-virus Software

Install dependable, trustworthy security and anti-virus software.

Lavan comment

With corporations and government bodies recognising the necessity to safeguard and protect against cybercrime, it is essential that individuals do the same. Failing to safeguard yourself is naive in our current cyber environment. Do backups, update your software and exercise caution. A cyber attack has the same risk profile as a pandemic. Be aware.  

If you have any questions in relation to Cyber Security or would like advice on Cyber and Data Protection or Cyber Law, please contact Iain Freeman.

AUTHOR
Iain Freeman
Partner
AUTHOR
Lorraine Madden
Special Counsel


FOOTNOTES

[1]  

Andrew Greene, ‘Authorities investigate cause of crippling Federal Parliament IT disruption’, ABC News (Online, 28 March 2021) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-28/parliament-hack-attempt-investigated/100034590.  

[2]

Ibid.  

[3]

Andrew Greene, ‘China Suspected of cyber attack on Western Australia’s Parliament during state election’, ABC News (Online, 17 March 2021) https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-17/wa-parliament-targeted-cyber-attack/13253926.

[4]

Rory Callinan and Lia Walsh, ‘Brisbane's Wesley Hospital cyber attack leaves staff struggling to communicate, patient says’, ABC News (Online, 28 April 2021) https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-28/wesley-hospital-cyber-attack-affected-commuications-patient-says/100101048.

[5]

Catherine Taylor, ‘What is a cyber attack, what are the targets and who is behind them? Inside the hacking attacks bombarding Australia’, ABC News https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-29/hacking-cyber-attacks-espionage-china/12398802.

[6]

Reported by Australian Cyber Security Centre. See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-11/australians-turning-point-on-cyber-security-cyberattacks-crime/13018884.  

[7]

Australian Government Department of Defence, (Online, 3 May 2021) https://www.minister.defence.gov.au/minister/andrew-hastie/media-releases/update-protect-yourself-cybercrime.