Western Australia State Government Departments Suffer Massive Hacks

Western Australia State Government Departments Suffer Massive Hacks 1

Western Australia state government departments have of late been suffering massive cyberattacks, one after the other.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, “The state government has faced a massive onslaught of computer network attacks since the last election, with tens of millions of attempted intrusions and successful hacks on the Premier’s department, Main Roads, the finance and local government departments.”

The report further says, “In answers to parliamentary questions asked by opposition frontbencher Zak Kirkup, the government also revealed it had been subject to attacks on its information systems by “nation-state foreign actors”.”

Of the different state governments departments attacked, the Department of Finance got hit the most. There had been 15.5 million recorded intrusion attempts on the networks and website of the department and of these, 11 attacks proved to be successful. However, Treasurer Ben Wyatt has stated that there is no indication of any cabinet-related or customer-related data being compromised.

Many other departments, including the Department of Transport, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Local Government, Main Roads, Department of Education, Department of Sport and Recreation etc suffered computer network attacks.

The Sydney Morning Herald report quotes Paul Papalia, who represents Education Minister Sue Ellery in parliament’s lower house. Paul Papalia states, “Since March 2018, the department has experienced an ongoing series of brute force credential attacks targeting email accounts within the department’s corporate email service.”

The Department of Education had reportedly identified 20,048 “potential malware events” targeting its networks.

The report further reads, “Mr Papalia revealed the North Metropolitan TAFE had employed an information security technician after a massive security breach in which hackers accessed staff network account details, encrypted password files, computer names, IP addresses, student details including names, phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses.”

The Department of Premier and Cabinet, according to the WA Premier Mark McGowan, has seen two successful cyber invasions. Both these attacks involved email phishing, but no Cabinet material or customer-related data have reportedly been breached. It’s also reported that the Department has been targeted by an estimated 1.85 million attacks.

The details pertaining to cyber attacks on the Western Australia state government departments have come to light just days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined hands with the U.K and other Western nations in condemning Russia for cyber attacks against democracies.

The state government had, in June this year, announced the establishment of an Office of Digital Government, with a fund of $7.4 million and the constitution of a new cybersecurity team with a fund of $500,000, to develop cybersecurity initiatives.

Regarding the announcement of this funding, The Sydney Morning Herald report says, “Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly said when announcing the funding the government had acted on the cybersecurity threat after “eight years of neglect by the previous Liberal National Government”.”

The report also states, “Mr Kelly said since coming to office in March 2017, the McGowan Government had revised its Digital Security Policy, arranged cybersecurity briefings for directors general and CEOs and granted $5.6 million to the national Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, headquartered at ECU Joondalup…In August, the Auditor General dropped a report revealing state government information networks were vulnerable because of weak passwords.”


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