Emergency messaging system is hacked; citizen’s information data breach

This warning message reached thousands of Australian citizens

Cybersecurity and digital forensics specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security have reported that a hacker managed to send a message to thousands of people after an emergency text messaging, email and phone calls service in Australia was compromised.

The message, sent from the Early Warning Network (EWN) alert service last Friday, warned users: “The EWN platform has been hacked. Your personal data is unsecured. We’re trying to solve any inconvenience”. In the end, the message included a link to a technical support web page, as well as a support email address.

After conducting the first investigations of the incident, EWN cybersecurity team concluded that a hacker got access to their alert systems, sending the message to the contacts stored in the company’s database. “The message was sent by email, SMS, and through phone calls,” the company’s official statement mentions.

“When detecting the incident, our cybersecurity team quickly identified the attack and managed to shut down our systems, limiting the scope of the attack. For our bad fortune, the attacker managed to access a small sample of our database, so the message was received by thousands of Australian citizens.

In its official statement, Early Warning Network asked affected users to delete any messages of this kind, as well as not to click on the attached links.

Kerry Plowright, the company manager, subsequently stated that, according to EWN internal investigation, the attack was originated in Australia and is related to “some details of compromised logins”. The company’s manager also notes that “this incident did not compromise anyone’s personal information”.

“The goal of the person or persons who sent this message was to damage this company, is a malicious action,” says Plowright.

The company said that its alert system worked regularly during the incident, and joint work has been undertaken with the Australia Cybersecurity Centre and law enforcement agencies.

A couple of months ago some Australia councils (such as Queensland and Gladstone) were severely affected by wildfires, so these communities have used this kind of warning systems to prevent further risks and losses in the event of a natural disaster. Chris Trevor, Gladstone’s mayor, believes the consequences of the cyberattack could be very dangerous. “We are really concerned that residents will stop trusting this early alert service, cancel their subscriptions and no longer use this tool that has helped us save lives”.