4 min read  | Cybercrime

What can we learn from cyber attacks in Australia?

Since 2017, Australian agribusinesses have been in the firing line of organised hacking groups. The JBS Australia attack, while significant, has only been the most recent; the breach forced the company to shut down its global operations for a few days; when considering the scale at which the company operates, the loss they suffered is easily in the millions of dollars. 

The trend of targeting businesses with traditional cybersecurity systems is a forewarning to the evolution in thinking we’re seeing across threat actors and the vulnerabilities they target. 

This cyber attack in Australia certainly won’t be the last and is a clear message to businesses in every industry—business as usual, especially when it comes to cybersecurity, no longer makes the cut.

The World Economic Forum recently expressed that cybersecurity failures will be the biggest threat to the world in the coming years. Part of this is because the majority of our responses are still reactionary and defensive; if we don’t embrace more predictive and proactive methodologies, hackers equipped with sophisticated tools will be able to cripple our operations by holding sensitive information ransom.

To our team, the attack on JBS Australia has highlighted certain critical needs and trends we’re seeing unfold across the industry.

Governments need to be more proactive in fighting cybercrime

The cyber realm is the battleground of the future; today, even more resource-strapped countries have the ability to challenge the powerhouses of the world through social engineering and damaging cyber attacks. 

If competing nations can disrupt key supply chains and shut down operations across any industry—the impact a bad player can have on a country’s economy is significant.

In democratic, free-market economies, the influence of the government in the corporate arena is minimal at best. Attacks, such as the one on JBS Australia, is almost a premonition of how cybercriminals can breach a company’s IT infrastructure. 

This attack makes it clear that governments need to employ a task force and intelligence services to recognise threats and inform possible targets and help them secure any risks posed by hackers.  

Modern supply chains are riddled with vulnerabilities

The cyber attack in Australia on JBS was among many recent attacks that sought to exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain to breach upstream targets. 

Today, it is clear that ransomware attackers have identified that the easiest way to infiltrate a company’s network and steal or hold information hostage is through its interconnected vendor system. 

Despite the technology and support available today, third-party cybersecurity is still a major chink in a business’ armour. 

Another eye-opening fact is that when it comes to cyber attacks in Australia, emails are still the hacker’s weapon of choice. A company’s employees can be the weakest link in its cybersecurity—one careless mistake is all it takes to throw the gates to your system and network wide open. 

If anything, the attack on JBS Australia has made it clear that businesses need to commit more resources to training employees on basic cybersecurity best practices.

Companies need a more robust incident response plan

In the case of JBS, they had backups and were able to resume their operations within a few days of the cyber attack. What we can learn from this, however, is the importance of recognising critical pressures and risks that surface in the aftermath of a cyber attack

Business leaders need to be trained and prepared to negotiate with hackers if they ask for a payout in return for data or system access. 

Having a legal team ready to take action in the event of a breach, for instance, is something all businesses with adequate resources should do. 

To be able to make swift and effective decisions in the aftermath of a cyber breach, setting up a committee with a clear objective and roles can also be very useful. To be effective, members should be aware of organisational expectations and what they are authorised to do in these instances.

The committee should be balanced and include key people with expertise in different areas including legal, communications and IT requirements. Its main roles should, ideally, include handling emergency budgets, conducting press briefings, and communicating with upper management.

For this committee, and for the strategies they implement, to be successful, it’s important to simulate attack scenarios and test them on a  regular basis.   

Cyber attacks in Australia are evolving faster than we can anticipate

This new wave of cybercrime is giving the business world an inkling of its capabilities and multi-faceted, unpredictable nature. 

Today, organisations must invest in better security systems, educate their employees, always have backups of their key digital infrastructure, update software regularly, and only collaborate with reliable third-party vendors. 

By covering just these basics, it’s likely that organisations can deflect the majority of cyber risks we’re seeing unfold across this landscape. Especially in today’s precarious security environment, it’s best to prepare for the worst—a cyber attack rarely, if ever, comes with any warning.