Cyber attack threat highlights need to protect critical infrastructure

Sinister image of hand poised at keyboard for cyber-attack (cybercrime index)
Image: Shutterstock

By Ghian Oberholzer, Claroty regional vice president of technical operations

The most alarming element of the multi-faceted cyber-attack launched on Australian organisations is the risk it poses to Australia’s critical infrastructure–the very services on which society depends including our water supply, power grids and telecommunications systems.

Cyber attacks on businesses are damaging enough, but the impacts of a successful attack on any of these critical services could be catastrophic, such as shutting down the electricity grid.

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Critical infrastructure often eludes the public’s attention as a major source of cyber risk, but it remains highly susceptible to targeted attacks, as past experience shows.

Earlier this year Israel’s wastewater treatment plants suffered a series of coordinated attacks. Fortunately, there was no significant damage. In 2015 an attack on Ukraine’s power grid left 230,000 people without power for up to six hours.

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The recent announcement by the Prime Minister that Australia was under threat from a cyber attack illustrates the need for sophisticated cyber security practices, policies, and technology to protect our critical infrastructure. Australia cannot afford to suffer catastrophic damage to its critical infrastructure at the best of times, and thanks to COVID-19 these are far from the best of times.

COVID-19 has increased remote access and work from home arrangements, significantly expanding the attack surface for critical infrastructure systems.

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