Securing our Government

Securing our Government

As malicious attacks evolve into orchestrated professional operations and a multibillion dollar underworld economy thrives, governments worldwide have had to rapidly update their security measures.

Are we at war? Yes, and not just in the miserable and bloody campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan. Government agencies at all levels - local, state and federal - have been subject to malicious attacks and victims of a flourishing underground criminal industry that some observers say is bigger than the $US321 billion global drug trade.

Over the last couple of years sovereign nations have been targeted by hackers, activists, criminal organisations and other countries' agencies. The assault has been relentless and examples abound.

In April 2007, Estonia suffered a wellpublicised denial-of-service attack that cut access to Internet services and halted credit card transactions. This brought the nation's blossoming web economy to its knees. The Estonian government blamed Russia but security experts have since attributed the attack to smaller, independent operators.

In the US the Pentagon acknowledged it is scanned or attacked more than 300 million times a day while two US lawmakers also recently accused China of hacking into congressional computers. The Chinese deny the claim and many security companies believe it would be difficult to fully substantiate - much like the Estonian accusations against Russia were - due to the underground nature of such attacks.

Globally, Storm malware has wreaked havoc, infecting more than a million computers at its peak (according to IronPort) and sending out billions of spam messages, all in the name of obtaining data and making cash.

Even locally the Queensland State Government's eTender site was successfully hacked in June and industry observers imply it is not the only site that has been under attack. The Canberra-based Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC), hosted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), has readily acknowledged malware as the greatest threat in the local landscape while the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, recently announced a whole-of-government review of e-security.

"Governments are being attacked like never before by people trying to break in and get access to government data," Frost & Sullivan industry director, Andrew Milroy, said. "It is becoming a big industry all around the world with people from all over the place trying to hack into systems and government systems seem to be a favourite target. I do think that is becoming almost the biggest issue for government now.

"On the one hand they are under pressure to make data available to the public through various departments. On the other hand they are under more pressure than almost any other vertical to ensure data confidentiality and adhere to privacy regulations which apply to just about everything that they do."

And while the majority of attacks may be identified as originating out of China, Brazil or Russia today, most observers claim underworld crime organisations are nation-agnostic and can just as quickly move their operations to one of many locations around the world, particularly those with high bandwidth broadband.

"We are now facing threats far more sinister than they ever were," Trend Micro premium services manager, Adam Biviano, said. "We are not talking about kids trying to gain a bit of notoriety or to spread a virus because they can. We are now talking about a very organised industry which has sprung up over the last couple of years to attack types of information that people are storing because there is a value associated with it."

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