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Friday, 19 June 2020 19:36

Hats off to Mimecast for adding a dose of reality to cyber claims Featured

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Hats off to Mimecast for adding a dose of reality to cyber claims Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Friday morning's announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison about a cyber attack on Australian public and private sector institutions led to a flood of commentary by security firms, all waxing voluble on the extent of the threat and how much danger the country faces.

At times like these, the media has to be vigilant not to pump up the threat; hence, none of these firms got a run.

But this evening, I found that there was one company that was worthy of mention: the email security provider Mimecast.

In a short note sent to me, the company said it had conducted a grid signal and trend analysis that showed "there wasn’t a specific attack campaign – but rather that the frequency of broad attacks from a particular state-based actor has increased. This is an acknowledgement of what we have been raising awareness about for some time".

In other words, Morrison had been warming up old hash browns from last week and serving them as hot piping ones that had just left the kitchen.

Mimecast said in its statement: "Following the Australian Government’s announcement this morning of an alleged state-sponsored cyber-attack, Mimecast’s Threat Intelligence Team conducted a grid signal and trend analysis that did not reveal any of the email-related indicators of compromise published by the ACSC."

The company also quoted from its latest Threat Intelligence Report where it stated: “Australia suffered a significant increase in cyber attacks against a wide range of industries – notably education, government, transportation, and manufacturing. Given the repeated nature of the threats and the resource and effort behind them, it is almost certain the threat actors involved represent an organised and determined criminal or state-sponsored threat.”

This report was produced in time for the RSA Conference of 2020 which did not take place due to the pandemic; it was conducted online.

The report further said: “These attacks were likely intended to impact or exfiltrate research and other intellectual property, but may also have been intended to monitor student activities or behaviour – especially since Australia is becoming a key investment area for Asian businesses over the US, making it highly likely the future threat landscape will be negatively impacted in terms of the volume and complexity of such threats and attacks.

"The region is also strategically key to US and Asian interests and is likely to suffer increased targeting as a consequence of this importance.”

Given the inclination of the security industry to leap upon false alarms of this kind and hype up the fear, it is heartening to see one company bucking the trend and introducing a note of sobriety and realism.

Mimecast added in its short note: "In light of this, we envisage solutions hosted onshore and owned by companies in [the] Five Eyes community of countries will be viewed favourably moving forward.

"It is reassuring to see that cyber security is increasing in priority and that the government is encouraging both the public and private sectors to build resilience and take security more seriously than they have to date. Mimecast looks forward to further collaboration on threat intelligence between government and the states through the Joint Cyber Security Centre program."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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