Risk of Russian cyber attack for Australian organisations ‘high’

By Melissa Coade

February 24, 2022

Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Australia’s top cyber security agency is warning domestic businesses and organisations to up the ante in monitoring for cyberattacks from Russia.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), from within the Australian Signals Directorate, has issued an advisory ‘urgently’ encouraging  Australian organisations to boost their cyber security in light of rising international tensions with Russia

This week Australia joined with international voices from the US, UK, EU and other governments to condemn Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, including announcing sanctions against the Kremlin.

According to the ACSC advisory, Russian-linked criminal gangs may be encouraged to target Western companies and organisations in retaliation, either via unintended disruption or uncontained malicious cyber activities. Consequently, a stronger ‘posture’ on cyber security among local organisations was needed, the agency said. 

“There has been a historical pattern of cyber attacks against Ukraine that have had international consequences,” the advisory, issued on Wednesday. 

“While the ACSC is not aware of any current or specific threats to Australian organisations, adopting an enhanced cyber security posture and increased monitoring for threats will help to reduce the impacts to Australian organisations.”

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, prime minister Scott Morrison said the government was privately alerting companies to the risk of ‘potential counter responses by Russia and other actors in response to these decisions’. 

“We are now publicly saying: ‘Go to the ASD website so you can be clearly informed of the steps that you should be taking to ensure that you are protected as best as you can be from any cyber attacks’,” Morrison said. 

The ACSC recommended organisations focus on reviewing and enhancing detection, mitigation, and response measures. It also said companies should update their logging and detection systems and environment, as well as apply additional monitoring of networks where required. 

Companies should take steps to assess their preparedness to respond to any cyber security incidents, and should review incident response and business continuity plans, the centre said, also highlighting a list of key mitigation strategies developed by the government to help companies do a self-assessment.

“The ACSC strongly recommends organisations implement the essential eight mitigation strategies from the ACSC’s Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents as a baseline.

“This baseline […] makes it much harder for adversaries to compromise systems,” the advisory said. 

The mitigation strategies include application control; patching applications; configuring Microsoft Office macro settings; hardening user applications; restricting administrative privileges; patching operating systems; multi-factor authentication; and regular backups.


PM announces ‘severe costs to Russia’s aggression’ as Australia joins allies in imposing sanctions

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