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Friday, 02 November 2018 05:37

Extortion bid after shipbuilder Austal hacked Featured

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Extortion bid after shipbuilder Austal hacked Pixabay

Global shipbuilder Austal's data management systems in Australia were hacked recently and an extortion bid made by the attacker, the company said in a notice to the ASX on Thursday.

The company builds patrol vessels and frigates for the Australian Navy and has designed and built more than 300 vessels for more than 100 operators in 54 countries.

The breach was limited to the company's Australian operations, the company said, adding that it had referred the matter to the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Federal Police.

It said the attacker had threatened to sell some of the stolen data online, and sought a ransom to avoid doing so. Austal said it would not respond to such extortion attempts.

A small number of stakeholders who were potentially directly affected by the hack had been informed, the company said.

It indicated that ship design drawings, which were distributed to customers and fabrication sub-contractors, had been stolen, but said such material was neither sensitive nor classified.

"No company wants to lose control of its information, but there is no evidence to date to suggest that information affecting national security or the commercial operations of the company have been stolen," the company said.

The email addresses and mobile numbers of some staff had been accessed and these individuals had been informed, Austal said.

The Australian Defence Department said in a statement that no compromise of classified or sensitive information or technology had been identified thus far.

"This incident reinforces the serious nature of the cyber security threat faced by defence industry, and the need for industry partners to put in place, and maintain, strong cyber defences," the department added.

"Defence and the ACSC have provided cyber security assistance to Austal and are working with Austal to assess and mitigate harm."

Commenting on the incident, Daniel Lai, the chief executive of security firm archTIS, said: "The event highlights that both organised crime and state actors are targeting high value targets throughout their supply chain.

"If this can happen to Austal, a company that has significant resources to protect itself from cyber attack, then what about its sub-contractors and suppliers."

He said there was a need for a more co-ordinated response from industry, defence and government.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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