April 22, 2021

Channel Nine cyber-attack disrupts live broadcasts in Australia

A cyber-attack has disrupted live broadcasts on Australia’s Channel Nine TV network, prompting concerns about the country’s vulnerability to hackers.

The broadcaster said it was unable to air several shows on Sunday, including Weekend Today. Nine said it was investigating whether the hack was “criminal sabotage or the work of a foreign nation”. Australia’s parliament was also investigating a possible cyber-attack in Canberra on Sunday. Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said access to IT and emails at Parliament House had been cut as a precaution. He said this was done in response to issues affecting an “external provider”, without elaborating. “This is a timely reminder that Australians cannot be complacent about their cyber-security,” the minister told the News.com.au website on Sunday.

“The government acted quickly, and we have the best minds in the world working to ensure Australia remains the most secure place to operate online,” he said. It’s not clear if the parliamentary outage and the cyber attack on Channel Nine were connected. The station’s presenters tweeted about their on-air issues. The Australian government, institutions and major corporations have fallen victim to a string of cyber-attacks in recent years.

Last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also warned that Australian organisations were being targeted by a sophisticated foreign “state-based” hacker. Australia’s parliament and political parties were also hit by a cyber attack in 2019. Cyber intelligence experts say only a few states – China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea – have the capacity for such attacks and are not allied with Australia.

Nine TV presenter Karl Stefanovic joked about “the Russians” on the network’s Today Show on Monday. Experts have long linked various hacks in Australia to China, including the parliament attack in 2019.