The Australian Government suffered more than 1,000 cybersecurity attacks over the last three financial years which achieved “any degree of success,” according to federal intelligence agencies. It is likely a conservative estimate because it only reflects incidents where a response from The Australian Signals Directorate was deemed necessary and does not include all government networks.
Cyber security failure has been described as the biggest threat Australian society by the Government’s leading cybersecurity official, who, last year, conceded defences will fail.
The latest figures come from the response to a question put to the ASD during last year’s parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Government’s delivery of digital services. Senator Rex Patrick asked the ASD to provide figures on how many physical and cyber intrusion attempts were made on government networks.
The question was taken on notice by the ASD and the committee requested a response by early April 2018. But a partial response was only provided on January 11th this year, more than six months after the inquiry had concluded.
According to the ASD’s response, over the last three full financial years the data available shows “there were 1,097 cyber incidents affecting unclassified and classified government networks that were considered serious enough to warrant an operational response”.
“ASD response is required when an incident achieves any degree of success, which can have varying impacts from significant data exfiltration and degradation of the network through to no harm being realised.”
The responses vary depending on the incident and range from telephone conversations to the “deployment of staff resources and tools to assist in mitigating the incident”.
The inquiry committee had asked for a breakdown of the incidents including whether the attacked networks were classified or not. But the ASD said it could not provide those details as the level of detail would “require costly manual review of every incident”.
The Australian Signals Directorate includes the Australian Cyber Security Centre and is the leading foreign signals intelligence agency. Its details and capabilities are “necessarily secret” but it leads the Australian Government’s operational response to cyber incidents.
The cybersecurity of Australian Government networks remains a function of individual government agencies, according to the ASD.