Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne responded to concerns about a global campaign of cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft by a group known as APT10, acting on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
The sustained cyber intrusions by APT10 were significant and focused on large scale managed service providers (MSPs) – specialist companies that manage IT services and infrastructure for many medium to large businesses and organisations, both in Australia and globally.
When it is in the nation's interests to do so, Australia publicly attributes cyber incidents, especially those with the potential to undermine global economic growth, national security and international stability.
In the statement, the ministers called on all countries – including China – to uphold commitments to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining a competitive advantage. These commitments were agreed by G20 Leaders in 2015. Australia and China reaffirmed them bilaterally in 2017.
The worldwide cyber security compromise serves as a reminder that all organisations must remain vigilant about security and that organisations such as MSPs must be responsible and accountable to those they serve.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has issued advice on concrete steps that MSPs and their clients can take to limit their exposure and protect their information.
This ACSC recommends eight key strategies, including:
- Application whitelisting – to control the execution of unauthorised software;
- Patching applications – to remediate known security vulnerabilities;
- Configuring Microsoft Office macro settings – to block untrusted macros;
- Application hardening – to protect against vulnerable functionality;
- Restricting administrative privileges – to limit powerful access to systems;
- Patching operating systems – to remediate known security vulnerabilities;
- Multi-factor authentication – to protect against risky activities; and
- Daily back ups – to maintain the availability of critical data.
The full ACSC Australian government Information Security Manual and additional resources to enhance your organisation's cyber security resilience are available here.