Fresh warning of cyberattacks from new National Cyber Security Coordinator Lieutenant General Michelle McGuinness | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

“We understand what we are looking for and now have some experience in responding.”

As part of the co-ordinator’s work, the National Office of Cyber Security is stepping up exercises with key businesses and sectors on how to manage a cyberattack.

“It’s really important that when we come to a crisis, we are not thinking of how we are going to respond to it at the point of crisis,” she said.

“I don’t think any of us is more vulnerable than another, although consequences can vary.”

A 30-year military intelligence veteran, General McGuinness was appointed last month as cyber co-ordinator, replacing the inaugural co-ordinator, Air Marshal Darren Goldie, who was recalled to the air force over an undisclosed workplace matter.

General McGuinness had most recently been posted to Washington as deputy director for Commonwealth integration in the United States Defence Intelligence Agency before returning to Canberra.

The co-ordinator’s role was created in the wake of the Optus and Medibank attack to work across government agencies as part of a broader beefing up of how Australia responded to and prevented cyberattacks.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre’s most recent update last year said a cyberattack was being reported every six minutes, but General McGuinness believed it was worse than that.

“I think that is the tip of the iceberg because that is just what is being reported,” she said.

“We are a very attractive target for cybercriminals and it’s a low-cost, high pay-off activity.

“We have seen attacks growing in number, speed and sophistication, and they are continuing to evolve and become more complex.

“That is only going to increase as we continue to embrace those capabilities that are emerging in critical technologies.”

The government’s cybersecurity advertising campaign will ramp up this week with three key messages: using passphrases combining four words with complex characters to make it harder for hackers to guess passwords; encouraging the wider use of multifactor authentication to add a second level of protection to accounts; and regularly updating software.

General McGuinness said the campaign was aimed changing habits and behaviours to make people understand that cybersecurity was everyone’s business.

“Those three simple things, our community of experts tell us, will elevate our cyber posture as a nation,” General McGuinness said.

“As a nation, a vulnerability of one is a risk to us all. We are so interconnected.”

One of the early tests for the co-ordinator and the National Office of Cyber Security was the hack on law firm HWL Ebsworth last year. Some 2.5 million documents were stolen in a breach that affected 65 government agencies, as well as a slew of companies.

She praised the firm’s engagement with the government over the breach. As part of its response, HWL Ebsworth was granted an injunction preventing publication of stolen information and refused to pay the Russian hackers a $US4.6 million ($7 million) ransom.

”There really is no guarantee you will regain access to your information, nor prevent it from being stolen or leaked online, and you don’t reduce your chances of being targeted again online,” General McGuinness said of the government’s advice to businesses not to pay ransoms.


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