Cyber Warfare and its Impact on Australia

Cyber warfare is defined by the Australian Cyber Security Centre as, “the use of computer technology to disrupt the activities of a state or organisation, especially the deliberate disruption, manipulation or destruction of information systems for strategic, political or military purposes”. With that being said, one could conclude that we are in a constant state of cyber warfare in Australia.

As cyber criminals continue to evolve, so does the need to ensure all Australian’s are aware and educated in cyber security. This needs to be a priority for all of us, not just those who are currently working in the industry or looking to be. Not only do we need people to step up and join the industry to help on the frontline of defence, but we also need to know as individuals how to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime – and if we do, what to expect.

What do hackers really want?

One of the most important questions we can ask, is what do the hackers really want? There are a couple of main reasons:

  1. They want to steal your data and hold it for ransom, hoping for an easy pay day.
  2. They want to steal your identity in order to impersonate you, gaining access to things such as your bank account, insurance claims and healthcare benefits.
  3. They want to steal your infrastructure, such as servers, so that they can store data and host applications on your infrastructure, rather than paying for their own.
  4. Just because they can, whether it be for the challenge, to cause chaos, or simply lack of morals.


What impact have hackers had on Australia this year?

So now that we know what hackers are typically after, here’s a list of just a handful of attacks this year:

  • University of Western Australia – in August this year, student details such as names, addresses, phone numbers and photos were exposed during a data breach.
  • Victorian Government –in July, students, travellers, and staff data was exposed in a Hotel Quarantine data breach.
  • iCare – the NSW government insurance agency suffered a data breach due to human error, with over 193,000 claimants being affected.
  • NSW Government – in February, over 500,000 sensitive addresses were leaked, including defence sites, missile maintenance units and domestic violence shelters.
  • Red Cross – in January, the locations and contact data of more than 515,000 were stolen during a data breach.

The list above isn’t even close to being exhaustive, yet it shows a very clear picture of just how vulnerable we all are to attacks. This isn’t just happening to our grandparents who aren’t tech savvy anymore, it’s a personal, national, and worldwide issue.

What steps are being taken to protect us?

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ll know that the Australian Government has been focusing on our nation’s cyber security. With a significant budget of $9.9 billion over the next ten years, along with several initiatives including the Ransomware Action Plan and the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, I think it’s safe to say we’re heading in the right direction.

However, we can’t just rely on other people to protect us. We need to step up as individuals and learn how we can each play a role in protecting our data, our identities, our organisations, our critical infrastructure and our nation as a whole.

What steps can you take as an individual?

The first thing you need to do, is kick the mindset of, “that will never happen to me, that’s something that happens to other people”. Hackers aren’t picky and we can never be fully alert 24/7. Keeping that in mind, here are some really simple things we can do:

Keep your software up to date

We’re all glued to our devices, and I know some of us struggle to pull ourselves away even for the short time it might take to update your systems. But this is one of the biggest downfalls we can make, so go get some fresh air or play with the kids while you are waiting for your updates to finish.

Password management

Hands up who has trouble remembering one password, let alone the dozens we actually need? That’s okay, I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been guilty of it at one point or another. But guess what? It’s time to change your password! Don’t use the same password for all the different platforms and don’t make it easy to guess. There are plenty of password managers that can help suggest difficult passwords. So as annoying as it might be to have 20 different passwords that are 20 characters long, it’s going to give you one extra layer of protection. Multi-factor authentication is also another great layer to add on to your password protection.

Be careful what you click

If you’re sent a link DON’T CLICK IT! Whether you’re expecting a parcel from Australia Post or not, whether it looks legitimate or not, DO NOT CLICK. Take the extra minute it will take to log into the web browser or make the call to the phone number listed on Google to check the information. Even tech savvy people have been caught out, so don’t assume you’re safe.

These three steps alone can take your personal cyber security from zero to something. But if you really want to take the protection of your data seriously, find the time to join a course such as our Cyber Security Analyst program. This type of course will teach you how to keep your own personal data safe, it will teach you how to keep your kids safe by teaching you and them what to look out for, and it will set you up to jump into an entry level cyber security analyst role in the workforce.

Cyber warfare isn’t going to ease. Hackers aren’t about to back down. So, let’s all step up and start defending what’s important.

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