Cyber attacks have changed, but Australia is doing something about it: SANS

Security group finds that Australian government agencies are proactive in dealing with security threats

Australia knows how to fix things and is doing something about it, at least when it comes to online security.

That is according to SANS Institute research director, Alan Paller, after he recently caught up with the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), an intelligence agency in the Australian Government Department of Defence.

For one, Paller said DSD has proven how to stop the intrusion that China and other nations are using that most people do not know how to stop.

“We now know exactly what to do to stop them and people are actually doing it,” he said.

The difference is that most government agencies around the world are not doing it, but more government agencies in Australia are doing it than anywhere else.

“Often you will hear ‘we know what to do but sadly we’re not doing it,' but this is the one time where agency after agency is saying they are doing it and it works,” Paller said.

He adds that that is not a story one often hears in the security space.

“You hear vendors talk about how great their products are going to be, but you don’t hear the users say they did it and it works,” Paller said.

For Paller, the security is a field where “a lot of people like to admire the problem" and "read stories about how bad it is.”

“So the stories about how to fix it are considered dull,” he said.

“The consultants don’t want it to be fixed and instead want to keep admiring it.”

Game changer

The recommendations by the DSD are a response to the current security environment, one where Paller has seen the types of attacks change.

“The threat has changed from stealing information to actually doing damage,” he said.

“The bad guys are no longer breaking into to steal information but are now destroying machines and equipment.”

Paller points to an oil company in the US that had 30,000 master boot records destroyed, an action which he likens to “dropping a computer from a high rise.”

“After something like that, you basically have to rebuild the system,” he said.

As such, Paller views incidents such as these as the first in a wave of destructive attacks that are different from the traditional "stealing data" attacks.

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