The revelation that Australia has been under ‘State-backed’ cyber-attack for several months is the latest in a number of accusations regarding State cyber capabilities being used in attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. With data related to COVID-19 appearing to be one specific target, the crisis itself will drive demand for the response to the increased malicious cyber activity.
With both the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) having identified increased activity in attacks to gain COVID-19 related information, the suspect list remains largely the same (primarily Russia and China in the UK’s case, and China in Australia’s case). The attacks on Oxford University vaccine research team with Astrazeneca have already resulted in the teams working with the NCSC to protect their data and research.
At the other end of the sophistication spectrum has been the repeated hacking of online meetings throughout the COVID-19 crisis. With both Zoom, Whatsapp, and other platforms falling victim to attacks or varying degrees of sophistication, Government, Institution, and Corporate cyber security look set to give cyber security a significant boost through the crisis. Whether or not Zoomplomacy will persist in the longer term, the crisis has publicly highlighted the need to invest in security along the spectrum of users.
With increased use of networks for work in a number of institutions, there has been a significant increase in the number of vulnerable attack points, which will need to be addressed. The extension of networks and thus their vulnerabilities to include corporations and civil institutions mean real investment will need to occur in the cyber security domain, particularly with the increased incentive for attacks provided by the pursuit of COVID-19 vaccine or cures. This has arguably been a key motivator for Austrlian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to publicly disclose the attacks. The lessons thus far suggest cyber security will be an area to buck the austere trend expected, and will rather provide an area of substantial market growth.