Australia also points finger at Russia for NotPetya

The Australian government has joined the United Kingdom and the United States in blaming the Kremlin for NotPetya attacks.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has on Friday joined its United Kingdom and United States allies in attributing the NotPetya malware attack to Russia.

A statement issued by Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor said that based on advice from Australian intelligence agencies, and through consultation with the governments of both the UK and the US, the Australian government has judged that Russian state-sponsored actors were responsible for the incident.

"The Australian government condemns Russia's behaviour, which posed grave risks to the global economy, to government operations and services, to businesses activity, and the safety and welfare of individuals," the minister's statement said.

A similar statement was issued overnight by the UK government.

"The UK government judges that the Russian government, specifically the Russian military, was responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyber attack of June 2017," Foreign Office Minister for Cyber Security Tariq Ahmad said in a statement.

"The attack showed a continued disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty. Its reckless release disrupted organisations across Europe, costing hundreds of millions of pounds."

NotPetya initially struck in June, interrupting the normal operation of banking, power, airports, and metro services in Ukraine. While the brunt of the impact was felt in Ukraine, the malware spread globally, affecting a number of major international businesses and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

With the damage bill in the region of $300 million for shipping giant Maersk and £100 million for Reckitt Benckiser, known for Dettol cleaning products, Nurofen tablets, and Durex condoms, the attack also halted chocolate production at Cadbury's Tasmanian factory.

Initially, NotPetya was thought to be ransomware, but security researchers quickly concluded it was more likely to be destructive malware designed to wipe systems.

NotPetya employed the NSA exploits for Windows known as EternalBlue and EternalRomance as well as credential-dumping tools to spread internally across networks once one machine was infected.

According to Symantec, Ukraine experienced 138 instances of the NotPetya infection on June 27; on the same day, Australia experienced 11.

Speaking with ZDNet previously, Nick Savvides, Norton by Symantec CTO for Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, said his organisation is still seeing thousands of infection attempts from cybercriminals using the same exploits and hacking mechanisms seen with NotPetya.

"Unfortunately, there is a trend of Australian organisations who have experienced infections not reporting them, which is counter-productive to developing ways companies can implement safeguards against these types of attacks," he said.

While the recent wave of cyber attacks have raised public awareness of Australia's vulnerability, Savvides said it's important to note that despite the country's geographic isolation, it has never been isolated from threat.

2017 was also plagued by the WannaCry ransomware attack, which too caused global panic and caught many organisations off-guard.

Previously, the US and Five-Eye partners blamed the WannaCry ransomware attack on North Korea. Russia and North Korea have consistently denied responsibility for the NotPetya, WannaCry, and other cyber attacks.


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