Live TV Programming subject to Cyberattack – Takes down Channel 9


Australian television network Channel 9 confirmed a cyberattack was behind the failure of live programming coming out of its Sydney studios on Sunday.

As a result, several scheduled live-to-air shows went off the air, with pre-recorded shows substituting.

In a statement, Channel 9 spokesperson Vanessa Morley said the cyberattack was primarily impacting the Sydney-based broadcast and corporate business units.

Scheduled Sunday evening news broadcasts out of Sydney and Canberra were replaced by a bulletin out of Channel 9’s Melbourne studios.

The attack did not just impact live broadcasting. Journalists employed at Channel 9’s print media arm, Nine Entertainment, publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, could not safely access their computer network on Sunday. However, both newspapers were able to continue operations.

Channel 9 has not confirmed the exact nature of the cyberattack, but it is believed to comprise ransomware most likely created by a state-based actor and not previously seen in Australia. The attack is the latest in a series of cyberattacks on the Australian Government, government agencies, and assorted private companies.

“This incident highlights that businesses of all sizes and levels of technical sophistication can be targets of cybercrime,” says Neil Pollock, CEO at FirstWave Cloud Technology

Over the weekend, Australian Government MPs and senators lost email access in another suspected cyberattack. While investigations continue, as yet there is no evidence the two incidents are linked. But security experts suggest the absence of an actual ransom reinforces the belief a state-based actor is behind both attacks.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre, part of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), is now assisting Channel 9. The ASD is the lead Australian Government agency dealing with cyber threats from state-based actors.

“It is likely the cost of this incident will run into the millions when combining the revenue impact with the post incident clean up,” Avertro’s Ian Yip said on Monday. ”It has fallen to a broadcaster of headlines to clearly show via its own misfortune that cyber risk is a major business issue that has very real financial implications.”

Channel 9’s high profile in Australia may have made it a viable cyberattack target. Further, criticisms of foreign governments by Channel 9 news programs and its print media arm may have incentivized a ransomware attack. There is now a suggestion critical news programming and reporting may have drawn unfriendly attention on Channel 9.

Speaking on Channel 9’s Today show on Monday morning, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Fergus Hanson said;

“That would be something you would be looking into. I think that type of reporting that rubs authoritarian leaders the wrong way can certainly motivate this type of attack.”

Channel 9 says it is working to rectify the security threat and expects its live programming to revert to normal soon.