16 Feb 2018

GCSB condemns major cyber attack

4:08 pm on 16 February 2018

New Zealand's spy agency has joined widespread condemnation of a major cyber attack which global powers have blamed on the Russian government.

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Photo: 123rf

The US, UK and Canada have all accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the NotPetya attack which wreaked havoc across computer systems in June last year.

New Zealand's GCSB released a statement this morning in support of the countries which - along with Australia and NZ - make up the Five Eyes alliance.

"We support the actions of our cyber security partners in calling out this sort of reckless and malicious cyber activity."

GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton said its partners had "credible intelligence" linking the attack to Russia.

"It's certainly consistent with the type of attacks we have seen by Russian actors previously.

"And secondly... the target was Ukraine. Unlike other cyber attacks which are often to steal information or raise money, this was to cause massive disruption to another country."

New Zealand was not immune from such threats, Mr Hampton said.

"[The attack's] primary targets were Ukrainian financial, energy and government sectors," he said.

"However, NotPetya's indiscriminate design caused it to spread around the world affecting these sectors world-wide."

New Zealand was not reported to have been caught up in the attack, but some organisations were disrupted while they updated systems to protect themselves, Mr Hampton said.

"Calling out this type of behaviour - and making clear we expect all countries to comply with approriate norms - is one of the things we can do to try keep New Zealand safe.

"In a globally connected world our relative geographic isolation offers no protection from cyber threats."

In the year to June 2017, roughly 400 serious incidents were logged by the GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre.

Almost a third of those had indicators of foreign intelligence agencies.

Russia has denied responsibility for the ransomware campaign, pointing out Russian firms were among those affected.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the accusations were "unsubstantiated and groundless".

"It's not more than a continuation of the Russophobic campaign which is not based on any evidence."

The cyberattack is estimated to have cost companies more than $1.2 billion.

Ransomware - viruses that threaten to delete the target's files unless they pay a ransom - is regarded as the fastest growing form of computer virus.