Cybersecurity and National Government

With local municipalities, there is a local government managing the business for the town, city, village, etc. Dependent on the size of the municipality, the required governance may be significant, or lower. As each of these grows, there tends to be more staffing required, larger networks, and more responsibility to go around.

National governments are no different. As these have grown, the infrastructure to support these likewise has grown to a critical mass. As these agencies grow larger, they also tend to be more of a target. The Australian parliamentary recently found this out, the hard way, or gave them the opportunity to review their defensive cybersecurity posture.

As with any national government, there is a substantial network infrastructure in place to support the computing activities. This was recently attacked or as they put it, there was a “security incident on the parliamentary computing network.” While some are calling this an attack, others are also calling this a breach. The timing for this was curious. This occurred merely three months prior to the Australian election.

This was not a substantial or prolonged attack. This was focused on the parliamentary computer network. This includes database and email systems. The attack occurred overnight. The initial incident response indicated no data had been exfiltrated. This was still being investigated after the attack. The authorities are also reviewing if a state actor had been involved.

Unfortunately, the attack methods have not been elaborated on. This will prove to be the more interesting part. This could also be used as a teaching tool so that there would at least be some form of a benefit.

To be conservative and as an abundance of caution, all of the passwords had to be reset. There were also other measures being worked on to further secure the network.

This was not a new target.The US government has been hacked several times over the years, with many different agencies, including the IRS, OPM, and FDIC, to name a few. The weekbefore the attack the British government experienced a bit of this when their email and phone contact lists were attacked. Also, the Scottish parliament email accounts were attacked unsuccessfully in 2017. This list is not extensive by any means. There have been many more attacks. Some known, most probably not published.

This exemplifies the need to have exercises for computer cybersecurity. This requires regular audits and examinations to ensure the system’s cybersecurity is up to date.

Resources

BeauHD. (2019, February 8). Australian parliamentary network hacked in possible foreign government attack. Retrieved from https://it.slashdot.org/story/19/02/08/073241/austrailia-parliamentary-network-hacked-in-possible-foreign-government-attack

BBC. (2019, February 8). Australian parliament hit by cyber-hack attempt. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-47166590

Borys, S. (2019, February 7). China link possible in cyber attack on Australian parliament computer system, ABC understands. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-08/china-government-cyber-security-breach-parliament-hackers/10792938

Central Telegraph. (2019, February 8). China probed in parliament hack attack. Retrieved from https://www.centraltelegraph.com.au/news/breach-of-federal-parliamentary-computing-network-/3642837/

Moderc, M. (2019, February 8). Australian parliamentary network hacked; no sign data stolen. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/08/australian-parliamentary-network-hacked-no-sign-data-stolen.html

Remeikis, A. (2019, February 7). Australian security services investigate attempted cyber attack on parliament. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/australian-news/2019/feb/08/asio-australian-security-services-hack-data-breach-investigate-attempted-cyber-attack-parliament

Schwartz, M.J. (2019, February 8). Hack attack breaches Australian parliament network. Retrieved from https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/hack-attack-breaches-australian-parliament-network-a-12012

The Associated Press. (2019, February 8). Australian parliamentary network hacked; no sign of data stolen. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/australian-parliamentary-network-hacked-sign-data-stolen-60930659

Wroe, D., & Uhlmann, C. (2019, February 8). Federal MPs’ computer network hacked in possible foreign government attack. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/federal-mps-computer-network-hacked-forcing-passwords-to-be-changed-20190208-p50wgm.html

About the Author - Charles Parker, II has been working in the info sec field for over a decade, performing pen tests, vulnerability assessments, consulting with small- to medium-sized businesses to mitigate and remediate their issues, and preparing IT and info sec policies and procedures. Mr. Parker’s background includes work in the banking, medical, automotive, and staffing industries.

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