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NBN Co hoses down 'scary Russian crackers' report

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NBN Co, the company building Australia's National Broadband Network, has found itself having to refute reports in the finance press that its networks had been “penetrated” by “cyber gangs”.

While attacks and scans are the lot of any and every network administrator, the company says the reported Trojan infections never got past a couple of user desktops.

An Australian Financial Review economist has reported that NBN Co's “networks” were infected by a Citadel-based Trojan (actually two or three individual machines were infected and discovered).

The report breathlessly says “NBN Co’s internal networks were penetrated by 'trojans' created by cyber criminals with “advanced capabilities” that avoided detection by its anti-virus software at least twice in 2012.”

(The AFR says the attacks “only hit NBN Co's internal networks” rather than the “broadband infrastructure itself”. This is hardly surprising to Vulture South, since we are not currently aware of any trojans, even those written by the most terrifying Russian organised criminals, that are capable of infecting things like optical fibre or the specialised hardware that makes them part of the NBN.)

As an NBN Co spokesperson stated to The Register via e-mail – and without selective editing:

“We don't believe that NBN Co was specifically targeted by the Trojans. By their nature these incidents tend to be random, and these are the types of events that a range of other companies would be detecting on their networks.

“The point is they were detected. NBN Co takes very seriously the security of its networks and information. NBN Co has adopted extremely high levels of newtork security, and as the response to the FoI indicates, those incidents which have occurred have beem of a low-level nature. The Trojans were detected before they were able to do any harm. They did not result in the release of any confidential information”.

NBN Co told Vulture South the incidents never went beyond individual machines – in other words, users' desktops or laptops infected when they clicked on the e-mail attachment. The malware was spotted by NBN Co's security systems when it started trying to contact its command and control servers.

The newsaper has complained that NBN Co heavily redacted its FOI releases stating that publishing its response information “could be used to identify potential weaknesses” in its security setup. ®

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