Wool sale shutdown a 'gigantic wake-up call'

Wool sale shutdown a disaster waiting to to happen

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WOOL BACKLOG: The cancellation of wool sales cut the flow of money to brokers and growers and caused wool to pile up in stores.

WOOL BACKLOG: The cancellation of wool sales cut the flow of money to brokers and growers and caused wool to pile up in stores.

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Criticism of the suspension of wool sales is growing louder despite the resumption of auctions.

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The cyber attack which halted wool auctions last week and again on Tuesdsay has been described as a "disaster" by leading wool broker and director of Australian Wool Innovation, Don Macdonald.

Dubbo-based Mr Macdonald said the shutdown had not been a good public relations exercise for the industry.

"It's been a gigantic wake-up call for us," he said.

Mr Macdonald said the whole wool trade's reliance on a single software service provider, Talman, had been an ongoing concern for some time while doubts had also been raised about the company's performance.

The time had come for all businesses involved in the trade to work collaboratively to better prepare for any future cyber attacks, he said.

Talman had patched up its hacked networks enough by Tuesday to allow auctions to resume again on Wednesday in Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle.

The ransomware attack shutdown Talman's OZED EDI (electronic data interchange) network and Application Service Provider (ASP) hosting service.

The ASP service is used by most buyers and some brokers while the OZED EDI network is critical to the exchange of ownership of wool within the Australian industry.

PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER: Wool broker and Australian Wool Innovation board member, Don Macdonald, says the shutdown of wool sales was a disaster for the industry.

PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER: Wool broker and Australian Wool Innovation board member, Don Macdonald, says the shutdown of wool sales was a disaster for the industry.

More than 75 per cent of the wool industry in Australia and NZ uses Talman software for tasks such as collation of test data, sale cataloguing, delivery instructions, valuations, invoicing and communication.

Frustration has bubbled over within the grower sector both about the cancellation of sales and the lack of communication about progress in fixing the problem.

AWI CEO, Stuart McCullough, said producers had been warning about the potential for such attacks since 2014.

NOT HAPPY: Australian Wool Innovation CEO, Stuart McCullough, says growers deserve a secure wool selling system.

NOT HAPPY: Australian Wool Innovation CEO, Stuart McCullough, says growers deserve a secure wool selling system.

A specific warning about the vulnerability of having the wool selling system so reliant on a single IT provider was contained in the final report of the AWI commissioned Wool Selling System Review released in early 2016.

CEO of the peak national grower body, WoolProducers Australia, Jo Hall, said she was concerned nobody to her knowledge had addressed the risk until now.

Ms Hall said growers hadn't been getting any real communication about the cancellation of sales although she was sure individual brokers had been keeping their clients up to date.

She said WoolProducers supported Mr McCullough's statement that growers deserved a secure, tamper-proof selling system.

Mr McCullough said the prolonged drought meant many growers were under extreme cash flow pressure.

"They are suffering and deserve to be able to offer to sell their wool when they wish and not be put off due to the failure of an offshore-based system.

"Growers deserve a robust selling system that is not vulnerable to attack," Mr McCullough said.

Executive director of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia, Chris Wilcox, said an "autopsy" was needed to find out what happened and to make plans for a network which was much less susceptible to hacking.

He had been disappointed that AWEX and its National Auction Selling Committee had seemingly ignored an offer from the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) to provide an electronic mailbox for industry EDI transmissions (including catalogues, delivery orders, invoices), at least as a stop gap measure.

Almost 70,000 bales were scheduled for sale this week in Melbourne (36,000), Sydney (18,076) and Fremantle (15,855).

Melbourne's three-day sale has had to be jammed into two days

Meanwhile, major wool buyer, Fox & Lillie Rural, told its clients the company would be honouring all payments from the week 34 sales.

Jonathan Lillie said it had been suggested the culprits behind the cyber attack had sought a $8 million ransom from Talman.

"Payment of this ransom is not under consideration by Talman," he said.

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds data for ransom and has been around for many years.

Attacks shot up in the middle of the 2010s to crisis levels. Brett Callow, a threat analyst with Emsisoft which develops anti-malware and anti-virus soft, said ransomware attacks had risen by 41pc between 2018 and 2019.

The story Wool sale shutdown a 'gigantic wake-up call' first appeared on Farm Online.

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