New Zealand’s justice minister says the nation faces unparalleled cyber-attacks targeting everything from the stock market to the weather service.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Andrew Little said it would be exceedingly difficult to track down the perpetrators of the attacks in recent weeks, because the distributed denial of service attacks were being routed via thousands of computers.
One line of inquiry is the emails sent to individuals in some of the targeted organisations requesting a ransom in return for halting the attacks, Little said. The official advice is to never, ever pay a ransom.
Little said he’s been advised that the sheer amount of data used by the attackers is unprecedented. New Zealand ‘s international intelligence service, Government Communications Protection Bureau, is assisting with the investigation and trying to protect businesses that seem to be part of a multinational conspiracy that is aimed at what it says.
The attacks prevented share trading for up to several hours at a time over four days last week. Private company NZX, which runs the market, said it suspended trading to protect market integrity because the attacks stopped it from releasing market announcements.
Little said the attackers had found flaws in the stock market ‘s operations.
“That inspired them to continue the attack, and they were also picking on other organisations,” he said.
One of those was the bank TSB, which was hit Tuesday. Chief Executive Donna Cooper said the attack interrupted some of its services but it had a plan in place and the bank remained sound.
Another bank, Westpac, said it successfully repelled an attack two weeks ago and hadn’t been hit again since. News organisations Stuff and RNZ announced over the weekend that they had repelled assaults.
Also hit this week was the weather organisation, MetService, switching its website to a stripped down version to stay online.
NZX said it has been able to trade uninterrupted, amid further attacks on its website so far this week.
“Independent cyber experts have told NZX that last week’s attacks are among the largest, most well-resourced and advanced attacks they’ve ever seen in New Zealand,” Chief Executive Mark Peterson said in a statement.
Little said the attacks were a wake-up call to customer-facing websites of all organisations. Just a few organisations seem to have been attacked at any one time and most were able to repel the attacks, giving him faith that the nation would step beyond them.