Australia has been hit by several major cyber* attacks.
Organisations targeted include Parliament House and Australian political parties, Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne and car company Toyota.
A cyber attack is an attempt by a hacker to damage a computer network. A cyber attack can make it possible for information stored in the computer network to be stolen.
The latest known victim is Toyota Australia.
“Toyota Australia can confirm it has been the victim of an attempted cyber attack,” a company spokesman said on Thursday.
“At this stage, we believe no private employee* or customer data* has been accessed.”
The spokesman said the company is working with international cyber security experts to get its systems up and running again as soon as possible.
Cyber criminals also hacked and scrambled* the medical files of about 15,000 patients at Cabrini Hospital. The criminals have demanded a ransom, or payment, to provide a password to unscramble the files.
The files belong to Melbourne Heart Group, which is a cardiology* unit at Cabrini. The unit has been unable to access some patient files for more than three weeks.
The computer programs, called malware, used to carry out the Melbourne Heart attacks is believed to be from North Korea or Russia. It has not been revealed where the criminals are from or whether this is known.
Primer Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday a “sophisticated state actor”, meaning the government of another country, had targeted the Parliament House computer network and all three major parties — Liberal, National and Labor — in a cyber attack on February 8.
“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious* activity,” he said.
Senate* President Scott Ryan last week advised that there was no evidence that any information has been accessed, but that politicians and staff were required to change their passwords.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the attempted hacking was of “grave concern” and came after attempted hacking of government processes overseas, including in the UK and the US.
There is no evidence of any attempt to interfere in Australian elections.
WHAT IS A HACKER?
This is a person with high-level computer skills who can solve technical problems. Some hackers use their skills to break into computer systems. They’re also sometimes called a cracker or a black hat.
A hacker who uses their skills to keep computer systems safe from black hats is called a white hat.
WHAT IS MALWARE?
To break into a computer system, a hacker finds a way to send a program into the system to infect it and make it behave differently. These programs are called malware. Examples are viruses, worms, ransomware, trojans and botnets.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE ATTACK A COMPUTER SYSTEM?
Single computers, smartphones, tablets and big computer networks store lots of information, including emails, text messages, bank details, passwords, private medical files, employment details and all the things you’ve looked at and done on the internet.
Much of this information is private, we don’t want it shared and we need to be able to access it again in the future.
Some hackers steal or scramble information and ask for money, called a ransom, to give the information back or unscramble it.
Some hackers use the information to steal money from bank accounts.
Some hackers just want to cause trouble or make people distrust the organisation that has been attacked.
HOW COULD A HACKER INTERFERE WITH AN ELECTION?
A cyber attack could interfere with voting processes, such as counting votes. It could steal or scramble information on voters. Or it could find ways to spread lies that could put people off voting for a particular candidate* or by making voters distrust the candidate or election result.
In Australia, we trust that elections will be fair, that all the rules will be followed and the politicians who get the most votes will be elected.
There will be an Australian election in May this year. Some people worry that recent cyber attacks show someone is trying to disrupt or influence the coming election.
US government officials believe that Russian hackers, possibly with Russian government backing, interfered in the 2016 US election in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. It is thought that the hackers stole emails from one of Mrs Clinton’s team. These emails were published and damaged her campaign.
AVOID BEING HACKED
There are a few simple things we can all do to make life harder for hackers.
Keep apps and software up to date.
Use strong passwords and a different password for each account: one for your computer, one for your email account, one for Netflix and so on.
Change your passwords frequently.
Where possible, use two-factor authentification* to access your accounts. An example is a password and a code sent to you by text message.
Keep your passwords safe. Don’t share them with anyone, especially online.
- cyber: to do with computers
- employee: someone who works
- data: information
- scrambled: mixed up so it’s not readable
- cardiology: the branch of medicine that deals with the heart
- malicious: intending to do harm
- senate: one of the two houses or sections of the Australian parliament
- candidate: person hoping to be selected
- authentification: checking
- What did hackers do at Cabrini Hospital?
- What is the difference between a black hat and a white hat?
- What is malware? Give some examples.
- Who won the 2016 US election? Who lost?
- Should you have the same password for every account?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Create a Slide Show
It is important that we all improve our cyber security awareness to keep our online information safe. Create a slide show or PowerPoint presentation aimed at senior primary and secondary students. Your presentation should explain what a cyber attack is, what hackers might try to do and what you can do to make it harder for them to be successful.
Use the tips at the end of this article to help you. Include different fonts and graphics to help convey your message.
Time: allow 45 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Technologies – Digital Technologies
While we may know what to do to improve our cyber security, we might not remember the tips all the time.
Create a ‘jingle’ (catchy song) or a ‘Rap’ (chanted rhyming song) that reminds us all to be cyber safe. You can include tips to avoid cyber attacks and how to use the internet safely (for example, not sharing your personal information online).
When you are happy with your jingle or rap, practice it and present it to your class.
Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Technologies – Digital Technologies
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalist has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you know anyone whose computer has been hacked? What happened?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.