In a statement to the stock exchange late on Thursday (1 November), Austal said it had “detected and responded to” a breach of its data management systems.
“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: ship design drawings, which may be distributed to customers and fabrication sub-contractors or suppliers, are neither sensitive nor classified,” it said.
Additionally, Austal admitted that the phone numbers and email addresses of some employees had been accessed, although it did not specify exactly how many of its staff members were affected.
The perpetrators then attempted to extort money from Austal, claiming to be offering certain information stolen for public sale over the internet.
“The company has not and will not respond to the extortion attempts,” it said emphatically.
Austal said the matter has been reported to the Federal Police and Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), as well as the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Austal operates defence shipbuilding facilities in Western Australia, as well as in the US. It also has commercial shipbuilding operations based in the Philippines.
The company has been in operation for 30 years and now claims to be the world’s largest aluminium shipbuilder, having delivered 300 vessels for use in 54 countries around the world.
The attack comes just a week after Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific revealed that it too had suffered a major breach, in which the personal and financial details of as many as 9.4 million customers worldwide had been accessed.