Australian Bitcoin Ransomware Wave Takes out Aussie TV Networks

Sunday 7 July 2020, 7:00 AM AEST - 1 week ago

The latest wave of ransomware cyber attacks on Australian businesses has reached the media industry, with leading media market research company Nielsen taken out by a suspected ransomware attack.

Ransomware attacks — harmful cyber attacks that infect individual computers or networks — typically encrypt critical files or restrict access to them, forcing users to pay the actors responsible in order to decrypt, or “unscramble” them.

In many cases, ransomware fees are demanded in the form of Bitcoin or privacy-focused cryptocurrencies such as Monero, which are more difficult to trace.

Australian in Top 10 Highest Targeted Countries 

Data published by cyber security firm Emisoft reveals that Australia is in the top ten countries most affected by ransomware attacks, with costs to Australian businesses and individuals estimated to exceed $1 billion.

Emisoft’s State of Ransomware report indicates that the average ransomware attack cost — spread between both individuals and companies — is $84,000, forcing companies to pay a high price for poorly secured data. More concerning data published by Gartner places the cost of ransomware attacks at $5,600 per minute globally, positioning ransomware as a very real threat to Aussie businesses.

The impact of ransomware on the Australian economy is accelerating — on July 23, global data company Nielson was targeted by a ransomware cyber attack that saw the platform’s daily television ratings release delayed for several days.

Aussie Businesses Targeted by Malicious “State-Based” Attacker

Nielson performs market research and audience measurement for Australian television platforms rating provider, OzTam, providing that even large-scale media giants aren’t immune to the threat of ransomware.

In a statement published subsequent to the attack, Nielsen highlighted the ransomware nature of the attack:

“Nielsen has become aware of an unexpected disruption relating to the Australian TV Audience Measurement (TAM) data centre environment. This disruption is derived from a ransomware attack in which Nielsen was the victim. As a result, TV ratings data remains unavailable.”The Australian Government recently published an advisory warning Australians of the tactics used by ransomware attacks — noting that the recent increase in cyberattacks is associated with a “sophisticated state-based actor”