Australia moving closer to mandatory ransomware disclosure

The JBS ransomware attack on critical infrastructure highlights ‘perilous’ risk to key industries, and government action including but not limited to disclosure mandates are under consideration.

Ransomware  >  A masked criminal ransoms data for payment.
Mikkel William / Getty Images

Suggestions that Australian companies could be forced to reveal payments to ransomware gangs were already emerging before the major attack on meat-processing giant JBS on 1 June shut down abattoirs across Australia and sent thousands of workers home indefinitely.

The ongoing ransomware attack disabled operations across the United States, Australia, and Brazil, where the company—the world’s largest supplier of beef, chicken, and pork—operates 47 facilities, including the largest meat-processing factory in the southern hemisphere.

Thousands of employees have been stood down while the company works to restore operations, and Australian authorities and US FBI specialists are investigating the incident—with US government authorities attributing the attack to Russian interests amidst warnings that the ripple effects from the attack could disrupt a range of downstream businesses. JBS claims it is making progress on resolving the disruption.

Ransomware attacks get bolder, and cause greater harm

After a flat year of industrial control system (ICS) vulnerabilities in fiscal 2018-19, an observed a 56% surge in ICS vulnerabilities last year was translating into bolder attacks by cybercriminals who, ICS-security firm Claroty’s ANZ regional director Lani Refiti said, know that “a ransomware attack that seizes up operations abruptly will present a dramatic cost to the enterprise. This factor makes food and beverage companies a high-prized target, and more likely to give into the demands of attackers in the case of ransomware to get their facilities operational again.”

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