Home Articles Initial Assessment of Austal’s Data Breach

Initial Assessment of Austal’s Data Breach


Australia-based defence shipbuilder Austal disclosed that its business has been hit by a cyber-attack which breached its data management systems. Read on to know more about it…

Western Australian-based defence shipbuilder Austal recently confirmed that its business has been hit by a cyber-attack which breached its data management systems. “Following the breach the offender purported to offer certain materials for sale on the internet and engage in extortion,” Austal said, adding that it would not respond to the extortion attempts.

Austal disclosed that a small number of stakeholders who were potentially directly impacted have been informed, however, the data breach has had no impact on Austal’s ongoing operations. Austal also confirmed that its US business was not affected by the breach.

Cyber Breach
Austal has been the subject of a cyber security breach and extortion attempt. Austal announced to the stock exchange that its Australian data management system had been targeted by an “unknown offender”. Some staff email addresses and mobile phone numbers were accessed, according to the statement which acknowledged that a “small number” of customers had been affected. Austal further added that it appeared the offender tried to sell some of the stolen material online “and engage in extortion”. On this Austal made it clear that “The company has not and will not respond to the extortion attempts,”.

Austal which builds patrol vessels and frigates for the Australian Navy, said there was “no evidence to date that information affecting national security has been stolen”. But it indicated the hackers got access to — or stole — drawings and designs of its ships. Austal said “Ship design drawings which may be distributed to customers and fabrication sub-contractors or suppliers are neither sensitive nor classified,”.

Austal has defence contracts with several other countries, including the US, but said the breach was limited to Australia. “The data breach has had no impact on Austal’s ongoing operations,” it said. “Austal’s business in the United States is unaffected by this issue as the computer systems are not linked.”

Damage Control
Austal’s information systems and technology team has restored the security and integrity of the its data systems and are implementing additional security measures to prevent further breaches.

Federal authorities are now investigating who was responsible for the hack and the full extent of information gathered.

Austal referred the incident to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which is run by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will also be involved in the investigation, given staff emails and phone numbers were accessed.

Amid the AFP and ACSC investigation, the agencies have provided advice and assistance to Austal about how it can bolster its IT systems and cyber security.

National Security
The Department of Defence has also been involved in the investigation, determining if classified information was compromised. In a statement, the Defence Department said it was aware of the breach but confirmed: “No compromise of classified or sensitive information or technology has been identified so far.”

“This incident reinforces the serious nature of the cyber security threat faced by the defence industry, and the need for industry partners to put in place, and maintain, strong cyber defences.”

While it was unclear who was behind this latest attack, Duncan Lewis, the head of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, recently highlighted the growing threat to Australia’s national interests of “espionage and foreign interference”.

According to its website, the Australian shipbuilder has designed and constructed more than 300 vessels for more than 100 operators in 54 countries. These include the littoral combat ship for the US Navy and the high-speed support vessel for the Royal Navy of Oman.

Austal designs, constructs and maintains the Cape Class Patrol Boat program for Border Force and the Royal Australian Navy, as well as the Guardian Class Patrol Boat for the Commonwealth of Australia.


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