Australian firms vulnerable to cyber attacks

Australian firms vulnerable to cyber attacks

Tue August 21, 2012 12:15am

THE online revolution has left Australian companies increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks and types of commercial espionage, the nation's spy chief has warned.

The director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, David Irvine, yesterday said he thought most online attacks in the business world went undetected, despite growing awareness of the threat.

In response, Mr Irvine urged executives not to leave their mobile phones or computers alone in hotel rooms when travelling overseas, and said they should be wary of storing sensitive data in the international data "cloud."

His comments highlight ASIO's growing focus on protecting information it sees as vital to the national economy, alongside its historical emphasis on protecting defence or government secrets.

"Our societies and our economy are increasingly 'internet dependent.' But there's a downside, and the downside is that this dependence comes at a cost: it has created new or accentuated old vulnerabilities," Mr Irvine said.

For instance, he said overseas spy agencies were also focused on stealing sensitive commercial information, such as patents or pricing policies, alongside defence secrets.

Speaking to business audience in Canberra, Mr Irvine urged vigilance and said threat was "significantly greater" when travelling overseas.

"Telephones and laptops are all vulnerable to exploitation at the customs barrier and at the hotel; they should never be left alone," he said.

"Information held on mobile devices is easily removed covertly and malicious software can be added."

Asked how much commercial cyber crime went undetected, Mr Irvine said: "I would be very surprised if we who are active in this area are picking up the greater proportion of it, in fact quite the reverse."

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