Optus debacle makes you wonder just how ready we are to deal with the future

Just imagine if Optus had a role in the 2032 Olympics and we had an outage of the scale of the recent one.

Nov 21, 2023, updated Nov 21, 2023
The Optus outage raises some important questions (Image: AAP)

The Optus outage raises some important questions (Image: AAP)

Imagine the damage that would do to Australia.

You would hope that after the recent Optus outage a few memos went around the 2032 organisers asking what if?

It raises an interesting question about whether the world has wrongly handed control and ownership of such important infrastructure as the internet to a few corporate behemoths and their commercial imperatives. Apparently, they can be hacked fairly easily and make blunders on a monumental scale.

The fact that key executives of Optus had SIM-cards for another network tells us two things: They at least were prepared in a minimal way for an outage and maybe we should be, too.

Business certainly needs to have options. A day without the internet could be hugely expensive, but should workers, particularly remote workers, have a separate SIM or at least split their phone and internet between different carriers?

The hacking attack on ports company DP World, which shut down or delayed cargo at our ports was another example of how our economy has attached itself to the internet. It has, in the space of a few decades, become ubiquitous and we haven’t really understood what that means for the public or for business.

In fact, we seem to have become inured to hacks fairly quickly. Jobs should be lost at Optus for this debacle and the previous one, but we seem to shrug our collective shoulders and move on and you have to ask where the Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan has been.

For the public there are few options open to us when we get disgusted with a telco and the penalties for breaking contracts are so onerous that we have little option than to shrug pour shoulders and hope things get better. If former chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin can leave Optus, why can’t the rest of us?

So, how easy would it be for China or someone else to hack the Olympics?

Well, NTT Corporation, which handled the network security for the Tokyo Games said there were more than 450 million attempted cyberattacks during the one month of the event.

None were successful, or so they say, so obviously Japan had its guard up.

But that number of hack attacks was more than twice the number that occurred during the London Games in 2012 and Tokyo had 200 cyber specialists defending the infrastructure. That’s just the number they were comfortable revealing. It would be safe to assume they had a lot more.

The Games are just one issue, The Australian Signals Directorate said 94,000 reports of cyber threat were made in 2022-23, or about one every six minutes. There were 143 cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.

There were 127 extortion related incidents, most of which used ransomware or similar. Email is the most used way of getting into an organisation.

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And which organisation made the most reports to ASD? The Federal Government, followed by the states.

While the Games will present opportunities for business, it will also present opportunities for those wishing to exploit business.

While it’s still very early in the development of the 2032 infrastructure, Australia has to be aware of what’s likely to be thrown at us. It won’t just be the Games that get hit. Any business with an association to the supply chain is likely to be targeted. Every business that tenders for games services has to be aware they could be a target.

Scams will aimed at anything to do with the event, particularly ticketing.

There are some in the tech industry who believe that Australia is already being targeted strategically by state sponsored hackers because in the global scheme of things we are not really that important, but we are closely linked to those who are.

We attract cyber attacks because the nation states that initiate them use us as a testing ground to see what happens when the West is attacked.

They can watch how we react and how our partners react safe in the knowledge that there are few repercussions.

The Federal Government is expected to this week release its new strategy aimed at beefing up cyber security, which will include more pressure on telcos to lift their game.

The public should also be asking why we are putting up with such appalling service.


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