A cyber attack is being reported in Australia every 7.8 minutes as sophisticated hackers, including foreign governments, target the nation’s critical infrastructure and essential services such as hospitals, food distribution and electricity systems.
The wave of hacks last financial year included a significant ransomware attack against a Victorian public health service in March, which affected four hospitals and aged care homes and resulted in the postponement of elective surgeries.
Thousands of Australian businesses were hit the same month by a major cyber attack on Microsoft Exchange servers that Australia, the United States and others believe was sponsored by China’s Ministry of State Security.
The federal government will on Thursday release its second annual cyber threat assessment, revealing the Australian Cyber Security Centre received almost 67,500 reports last financial year, up 13 per cent on the previous 12 months.
About one-quarter of cyber incidents reported to the ACSC over that period were associated with Australia’s critical infrastructure or essential services, including education, communications, electricity, water and transport.
Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said cyber was the “new battleground” and it was up to government, industry and individuals to combat the escalating threat.
“Australians are being targeted by a range of actors: from state-sponsored actors to gain strategic advantage, to financially motivated financial cybercriminals looking to make a profit, to issue-motivated groups – and even terrorist groups and extremists – looking to disrupt and destabilise Australian democracy,” Mr Hastie said.
“Indeed, cyber espionage I think remains one of the greatest threats to Australia’s national security and economic prosperity in this decade ahead. This type of activity blurs the distinction between peace and war, and it’s a favoured tactic of authoritarian regimes seeking an advantage asymmetric means.”