Australian Defense Shipbuilder Austal Hit With Ransomware Attack

Attempted Money Extortion For Information

Esther Shein

Australian shipbuilder and defense contractor Austal says its IT systems were breached by a cyber attacker who then tried to extort money in exchange for the return of its information. The firm said in a statement it would not respond to the extortion attempt and that it has no evidence that the data accessed was classified.

Austal’s IT team “restored the security and integrity of the company’s data systems and ha[s]  implemented and continues to implement additional security measures to prevent further breaches,” the company said. The breach had no impact on Austal’s ongoing operations and its U.S. business was unaffected, the company said.

“No company wants to lose control of its information, but there is no evidence to date to suggest that information affecting national security, nor the commercial operations of the company have been stolen", the Austral statement noted. Ship design drawings that may be distributed to customers and fabrication subcontractors or suppliers are not sensitive or classified, the firm said.

The email addresses and mobile phone number of some employees were accessed, and they were informed, Austal said. The company said it has not and will not respond to extortion attempts.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Cyber Security Centre are investigating, the company said.

The Australian shipbuilder has designed and constructed over 300 vessels for more than 100 operators in 54 countries, according to the company’s website. These include the Littoral Combat Ship for the U.S. Navy, high-speed support vessels for transport and humanitarian relief and the high-speed support vessel for the Royal Navy of Oman.

Austal designs, constructs and maintains the Cape Class Patrol Boat program for Border Force and the Royal Australian Navy, as well as the Guardian Class Patrol Boat for the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy.