According to ABC News, Austral, the shipbuilding company that handles Australia’s Navy ships for more than a decade, was recently attacked in October by cybercriminals suspected to be from Iran. This shipbuilder has shipyards in Australia, the Philippines and the United States. It has worked with 54 countries on its contracts. The data that they accessed included ship designs and staff contact information. The type of attack that they used tried to get as much data as possible before the intrusion was detected.
The attackers took that information and put it up for sale on the dark web. The Australian Cyber Security Centre investigated the attack to discover the possible national origin of the people behind it. While they don’t know the true motivation behind this incident, one theory is that it happened due to the Australia Prime Minister talking about the Iran nuclear deal and whether the country would continue supporting it.
However, the Australian Cyber Security Centre doesn’t believe that the hackers were backed by the Iranian government, and the Iranian Embassy also issued a denial. Iran, much like Russia, China, and North Korea, is known for posing a major cyber threat to Australia and other countries.
This isn’t the first time in 2018 that Iranians targeted Australia. Universities saw a spear-phishing attack that focused on acquiring academic research and other intellectual property from the schools.
Austral’s response to the breach was not ideal. The attack happened in October, but the organization did not send a notification to the Australian Stock Exchange until they had to respond to someone going public with the cyber theft on Twitter. The investigation is ongoing.
The United States Response to Cyber Attacks
The United States recently updated its Department of Defense Cyber Strategy from 2015 to better address the cyber threats present in today’s world. Specifically, this strategy highlights the threat posed by foreign nations on the cybersecurity front. China and Russia are the primary countries highlighted in this document, but other state actors are also of concern.
Cybersecurity can’t be an afterthought in any organization. The risk of data breaches, especially by state-sponsored actors, must be addressed through strict adherence to regulations and investments in IT security.