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Analysis – In Australia, the hacking frenzy is caused by a small number of cyber security staff Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman uses her mobile phone as she walks past in front of an Optus store in Sydney, Australia February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/File Photo


Byron Kaye and Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A spate of hacking attacks on some of Australia’s biggest companies has made the country a target for copycat attacks just as a skills shortage leaves an understaffed, overworked cyber security workforce ill-equipped to stop it, technology experts said.

As another potential breach of sensitive data emerged Monday — a ransomware attack on a communications platform for military personnel — cybersecurity experts put the wave of high-profile breaches down to a common factor: human error.

Between Australia’s No. 2 telco Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, and the country’s biggest health insurer Medibank Private Ltd, about 14 million customers – equivalent to 56% of the population – have had their data breached since September 22. alone.

The allegation of a weak workforce points to a problem with no quick fix.

With the border closures due to COVID-19 ending at the end of 2021, Australian immigration officials say they are still processing a million visa applications from people who want to work in the country, many of whom work in technology and cyber security for employers , who want to fill vacancies abroad.

“They don’t have enough trained people to take it seriously and do what’s necessary,” said Sanjay Jha, chief research officer at the Cyber ​​Security Institute at the University of New South Wales.

“Sometimes you check a box in an Excel spreadsheet and you don’t understand what you’re doing, and then the result isn’t great. You need people who are really qualified and properly trained.”

As hacking software becomes easier to purchase online and the shift to working from home leaves more vulnerabilities in company networks, the number of data breaches worldwide has tripled in two years, according to a cybersecurity industry study. This week, 37 countries, including Australia, will meet at the White House to fight ransomware and other cybercrimes.

The outbreak has sent shockwaves through corporate Australia, particularly because of the high visibility of the targets and the sensitivity of their data, including millions of medical records.

Experts say the steady stream of smaller breach notifications may be the result of hackers trying to match the success of others.


Government agency the Australian Cyber ​​Security Center (ACSC) said breach notifications rose 13% to a total of A$33 billion ($21 billion) in the year to June 2021, according to the latest available data. The agency is expected to show another increase when it releases its 2022 figures in the coming weeks.

Australian cyber security premiums rose an average of 56% year-on-year in the second quarter, insurer Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc (NYSE: ) said.

“It’s a rich country, the number one country that does a lot of business, has a lot of data, so it’s being targeted,” said Win-Lee To, director of actuarial firm Taylor Fry, which specializes in cyber security risks. .

“Trying to hire people to protect your assets is getting harder and harder because there just aren’t enough people and the training will take one to two years.”

Companies are offering bonuses of up to 50% off starting offers for cybersecurity workers because of a “deep talent shortage,” said Nicole Gorton, principal at specialty recruiter Robert Half (NYSE: ). The average base salary for cyber security in Australia is A$105,000, according to jobs website Glassdoor.

Neil Curtis, Australian head of cyber security at US technology contractor DXC Technology Co, which runs a cyber security retraining program for military veterans, said he had requests for about 300 trained staff in the next six months.

Curtis said a DXC Technology employee recently forwarded to him a private request for cyber security staff for one of Australia’s largest companies.

“I said, ‘How much do you want?'” he told Reuters by phone.

“They said, ‘We’re going to take everyone you’ve got.’

($1 = 1.5584 Australian Dollar)

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