Australia condemns state attacks on health infrastructure


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Friday, 22 May, 2020



Australia condemns state attacks on health infrastructure

Australia’s Ambassador for Cyber Affairs has condemned state-backed malicious actors that are using the COVID-19 crisis to damage or impair the operation of hospitals, medical services and facilities.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Cyber Security Centre has warned that malicious cyber actors are seeking to exploit the pandemic for their own gain.

Ambassador Dr Tobias Feakin said this is a contravention of countries’ international commitments.

“Countries have agreed at the United Nations that existing international law applies in cyberspace. Countries have also agreed that it is contrary to norms of responsible state behaviour to use cyber tools to intentionally damage or impair critical infrastructure providing services to the public,” he said.

“The Australian Government calls on all countries to cease immediately any cyber activity — or support for such activity — inconsistent with these commitments. We also urge all countries to exercise increased vigilance and take all reasonable measures to ensure malicious cyber activity is not emanating from their territory.

While the ambassador was careful not to name any countries, the statement is being interpreted as a pointed message to China in light of the increasingly tense diplomatic relationship between the two countries due to Australia’s advocacy for an international inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak.

Feakin said Australia has registered its concern about the malicious activity in its initial comments on the initial report of the UN Open Ended Working Group in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security.

Meanwhile, the ACSC said it is continuing to collaborate with industry, law enforcement and government partners to identify and disrupt malicious offshore cybercriminals.

The agency issued a threat advisory earlier this month detailing the targeting of Australian health sector organisations and COVID-19 essential services.

“The ACSC is on the front line of our defence against malicious cyber activity, and this advisory is informed by a range of incidents we have observed and responded to. The tradecraft used by malicious adversaries ranges from the simple to the very sophisticated,” ACSC head Abigail Bradshaw said.

Organisations are encouraged to review their networks in line with this advisory and inform the ACSC if compromise is found.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/cendhika

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