ASIO Head Speaks Ominously of “Crack Cyber Teams”

8 March 2024

In addition to the nuisance cyber-attacks that pose little risk but must be addressed, and the criminal gangs, motivated by profit and operating largely out of Eastern Europe, there exist state-sponsored malicious actors based in countries like Iran, North Korea, and China. They work in state-of-the-art facilities, employed by their governments, to target critical infrastructure facilities like communication networks and the electricity grid.

ASIO Director General Mike Burgess alluded to the threat posed to Australia by these state-sponsored “crack cyber teams” in a recent speech about the agency’s work. Such groups work on planning attacks that will cause the most societal disruption but are not activated during times of relative peace. Plans are drawn up to inflict infrastructure damage should conflict arise. If Australia were to be drawn into a war between China and Taiwan for example, we could expect cyber-attacks to form part of the response. 

A cyber-attack, Burgess said, is the “most immediate, low cost and potentially high-impact vector for sabotage … Our critical infrastructure networks are interconnected and interdependent, which increases the vulnerabilities and potential access points.” He cited the hack of Optus as an example of what could be expected.

The job of ASIO and other government agencies during times of calm is to monitor the activities of the state-sponsored groups in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. We can be sure that foreign governments have compiled extensive dossiers on the strengths and weaknesses of the nation’s critical infrastructure. While we hope that the foreign crack cyber-teams are never activated, hope is not a strategy.  

In the meantime, Intalock will continue to assist leading Australian organisations, both offensively through Cyber Threat Intelligence, and defensively through the latest security strategies and processes. The Intalock team is accustomed to dealing with the nuisance attacks that often show as false positives, financially motivated actions such as ransomware, and the efforts of highly sophisticated and coordinated teams that may benefit from state sponsorship.

For more information about bolstering your security capabilities, contact Intalock today. 

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