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By Bruce Sussman
Fri | Mar 6, 2020 | 8:32 AM PST

News reports about ransomware attacks are part of daily life now.

But ransomware attack and sheep farmer in the same headline? Now there's something we never thought we'd see. And it is having an unexpected impact.

Wool market sales stopped by ransomware attack

The ransomware attack hit sales software used by Australian sheep farmers to sell their wool to the world. The attack abruptly halted last week's global sales.

And wool sales there are big business according to Mark Grave, Chief Executive of the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX). Weekly wool exports are valued at between A$60 million and A$80 million.

"We're working closely with Talman, who are the largest system provider to the industry, to restore sales to an operating level. We first found out on Tuesday morning, and since then there have been regular and progressive meetings to figure out what's next," Grave tells ABC News Australia.

What we know about the wool market cyberattack

The attack encrypted data belonging to a company called Talman Software, which processes more than 75% of wool sales in Australia and New Zealand.

Roberto Musotto, who is affiliated with the Cyber Security Research Cooperative Centre (CSCRC) in Australia, posted more about the hacker's ransom request to get decryption keys:

"In this case, cyber-criminals then demanded A$8 million to unlock the files. Talman has refused to pay and has instead built a replacement version of the software."

What can other organizations and industries learn from this attack?

As it turns out, sheep farmers and their industry trade groups had been fearing a worst case scenario like this for years.

FarmOnline puts it like this:

"Australian Wool Innovation CEO, Stuart McCullough, said producers had been warning about the potential for such attacks since 2014. A specific warning about the risk of having the wool selling system reliant on a single provider was contained in the final report of the AWI-commissioned Wool Selling System Review in early 2016."

And that leads us to this important question: Is your industry or niche reliant on a single vendor or tool?

If so, it could become a single point of failure in a cyberattack.

That lesson comes from a bunch of sheep farmers in Australia who suddenly had 70,000 bales of wool on their hands with no way to sell it.

And that is the true story of the sheep farmers and the ransomware attack.

Tags: Ransomware,
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