The broadcast of Channel 9, one of Australia’s most widely watched television networks, was disrupted by a hack on Sunday Morning. The attack took them off the air and impacted scheduled programming for several hours.
Channel Nine described the incident as the ‘largest attack on a media company in Australian history.‘
Professor Craig Valli, director of the Edith Cowan University Security Research Insitute, suggested the attack was highly sophisticated and could have been launched with the motive of acquiring confidential journalistic information.
The attack began on Saturday night with computers in Channel Nine’s Sydney network operating strangely, and by Sunday morning many of them ceased to function altogether. The corporate network had been targetted and significantly compromised, leading to the aforementioned broadcast disruptions.
Seeing as the attack was notably sophisticated, speculation has arisen that state actors were involved in the attack. This also coincides with the fact that Channel Nine was scheduled to report on a number of recent controversial activities from Vladimir Putin.
If you’re an Australian, you also won’t be surprised that Weekday host Karl Stefanovic addressed this correlation directly with the tongue-in-cheek remark “Bear with us as we try and work around these technical issues caused by Vladimir, we’re not blaming anybody in particular“
So how did this breach happen? Unfortunately, it was not only Channel 9 systems that were impacted, but also federal Parliament, and the attack-method may be related to the recent security breaches on Microsoft Exchange Servers.
The ACSC further reported that many Australian organisations were yet to ‘patch’ (apply an update designed to fix and improve security vulnerabilities) on said Microsoft Exchange environments.
And while a simple update may seem trivial in the face of potential cyber-attacks by state-actors, this isn’t the first time that major security breaches occurred through widely-known security flaws.
Take, for example, the well-known 2017 Equifax data breach, in which hundreds of millions of personal data records were stolen reportedly as a result of lax security practices and a simple failure to apply a patch on a known website vulnerability.
This attack was also followed by speculation of state-actor involvement from China.
Even in our personal work-habits, many of us who are made aware of security issues in an app continue to use the app regardless. As recently as last year, millions of workers continued to use Zoom in the face of well-known security vulnerabilities, in which at least 500,000 credentials were compromised and placed on the dark web.
After the emotional roller-coaster that was 2020, it’s common to feel ‘news fatigue‘ and ultimately find ourselves shrugging off major historical events in the headlines. Indeed, many of us are desensitized to current events moving into the new decade, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning from them.
In the case of the recent Channel 9 attack, some major takeaways that any organisation can apply to their own security posture are:
- Always patches your systems; keep an eye on known vulnerabilities and act fast to apply necessary updates across the organisation.
- Don’t procrastinate security; keep your hands off the snooze trigger and ensure the latest security requirements are actioned promptly.
- Consider your digital assets, and protect them; Channel Nine houses a major flow of confidential journalistic data and a prominent platform for delivering national news. Take a moment to reflect on the data and services your organisation holds, and protect them appropriately.
Not sure about the next steps to take for your cybersecurity? Visit cyberaware.com for key safety tips and takeaways.