There just couldn’t be a clearer sign of the ongoing damage and risk caused by the Cyber-attack targeting Microsoft Exchange Servers earlier this year. Multiple countries around the world came together accusing China of carrying out this major attack in the hope that co-ordinated international action will put enough pressure on them.

It began back in March 2021, when Microsoft blamed a Chinese cyber-espionage group for attacks on its mail server software. At the time, the tech giant said the hackers belonged to a state-backed group, which was a “highly skilled and sophisticated actor”. Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Centre attributed the attacks to Hafnium, and said they target infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions and defence contractors. Policy think- tanks and non-government groups have also been targeted.

Keep in mind, Microsoft is a ‘friend’ of China maintaining a relationship with the Chinese government with mainland presence since 1992. Microsoft’s social platform LinkedIn is still accessible in China, unlike Facebook and Twitter, as is its search engine Bing. The company also runs a centre for artificial intelligence research in China.

At least 30K small to medium-sized business and organisations compromised

Yet Microsoft was left to go public about it’s vulnerability on 2nd March 2021 and around a quarter of a million systems globally were left exposed. That’s at least 30,000 small to medium-sized business and organisations compromised.

The UK Foreign Office said the Chinese government had “ignored repeated calls to end its reckless campaign”, whilst The White House said it reserved the right to take additional actions against China over its cyber activities. The EU said the hack had “resulted in security risks and significant economic loss”.

Cybersecurity is an international concern, which is why so many governments have joined together to signal their concerns. Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have joined Nato to issue a statement in ‘solidarity’. Will this strong language be enough to put pressure on the cyberattack activities?

How can organisations in Australia prevent cyberattacks?

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