Australia’s Nine Entertainment was hobbled by a cyber-attack on Sunday that temporarily halted its ability to put on live programming and forced all staff to work from home. The company called in the country’s Australian Cyber Security Centre to investigate whether it was a matter of “criminal sabotage or the work of a foreign nation”.
The attack, believed to involve a sophisticated form of ransomware, began on Sunday morning and halted current affairs program Weekend Today and the 5pm new program from Sydney. Other shows were also affected and the channel has warned of continuing disruptions.
— Richard Wilkins (@RichardWilkins) March 27, 2021
The company’s 9News described the attack as “the largest cyber-attack on a media company in Australia’s history.”
“We wish to inform you there has been a cyber-attack on our systems which has disrupted live broadcasts out of Nine Sydney (1 Denison). As a result, we were unable to get ‘Weekend Today’ to air this morning however, have put several contingencies in place to ensure the NRL and our 6pm bulletins will proceed. Our IT teams are working around the clock to fully restore our systems which have primarily affected our broadcast and corporate business units. Publishing and radio systems continue to be operational,” said director of people and culture at Nine, Vanessa Morley.
We’re responding to technical issues affecting live broadcasting. At this stage we’re working through the impacts and will provide updates as we resolve the systems. @NRLonNine, @9NewsAUS 6.00pm bulletins and our evening schedule of @MarriedAU and @60Mins will proceed as normal.
— Channel9 (@Channel9) March 28, 2021
The same day, Australia’s parliament suffered an attack that caused officials to close down an email server. It is not clear whether the two events are linked.
The suggestion that a foreign state actor may be involved has brought several conspiracy theories to the fore. Nine has recently ran exposes on Russia and North Korea, and one of the network’s programs made the suggestion that the attack is a form of payback. But more generally Australia’s relations with China are at a particularly low ebb.
Russia and North Korea have been singled out as suspects in the biggest ever cyber attack on an Australian media company.
— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) March 29, 2021
The country has been buffeted by the China-U.S. Cold War that has spanned matters ranging from trade to the politics of the South China Sea and from China’s crushing of dissent in Hong Kong to allegations of genocide in Xinjiang.
In recent days, China formalized a five-year ban on the import of Australian wine which it deemed as being dumped at below cost, but which other observers regard as retaliation for Australia’s call for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus.