Australia’s biggest car brand has been targeted by cyber vandals. Pic: Supplied.
Australia’s biggest car brand has been targeted by cyber vandals. Pic: Supplied.

Toyota hit by cyber attack

TOYOTA Australia staff have been told to switch off their computers after the country's number one car brand was hit by a cyber attack.

Employees have lost access to email and other cloud-based information in what the brand describes as "an attempted cyber attack".

Staff were told to switch off computers yesterday morning and informed the company would be offline until lunchtime tomorrow.

Toyota, Australia’s biggest car brand, has been hit by a cyber attack. Pic: Supplied.
Toyota, Australia’s biggest car brand, has been hit by a cyber attack. Pic: Supplied.

The attack on Toyota follows confirmation from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Australia's major political parties had recently been hit by an attack on the Parliament House computer network. A Melbourne hospital has also been the victim of a cyber attack this week.

A statement released by Toyota says the company believes "no private employee or customer data has been accessed".

"The threat is being managed by our IT department who is working closely with international cyber security experts to get systems up and running again," it says.

"At this stage we have no further details about the origin of the attack.

Toyota accounts for one in five new cars sold in Australia. Pic: Supplied.
Toyota accounts for one in five new cars sold in Australia. Pic: Supplied.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank customers for their patience."

The issue extends beyond Toyota's automotive arm to its spare parts, finance and material handling (forklift) business as well it's luxury offshoot, Lexus.

Toyota's main customer-facing website remains operational, but the hack has severely hampered the company's ability to communicate with its network of dealers.

The brand dominates the Australian new car market, accounting for one in five new cars sold.

The company has adopted an increasingly cloud-based and paperless office since centralising its national headquarters in Melbourne in 2017, moving sales and marketing staff out of Taren Point in Sydney's south.

Toyota has moved to a paperless office. Pic: Supplied.
Toyota has moved to a paperless office. Pic: Supplied.

One employee, who declined to be named, said it felt like the office had been ransacked.

"It's the digital equivalent of someone coming in and turning over all the filing cabinets," the person said.

A Parliamentary Committee examining the future of automated transport in Australia heard evidence last week about the threat presented by cyber threats.

James Goodwin, chief executive of the Australian New Car Assessment Program responsible for independent assessment of vehicle safety, told the committee "cybersecurity is a big threat and a big concern for everyone" and that digital protection has "an important part to play in the future of transport".

"Vehicle brands are very large technology companies," Goodwin said.

"Too often, we think of a car company as assembling vehicles and putting together pieces of steel and aluminium, but they're actually very large technology companies.

Cyber security has been identified as an increasing threat to onboard vehicle technology. Pic: Supplied.
Cyber security has been identified as an increasing threat to onboard vehicle technology. Pic: Supplied.

"They should be doing everything they can to protect their customer, whether it is someone who owns or buys the vehicle or whether they use the vehicle in the future - the ownership model may change.

"They should be looking after their consumers, their customers, as best they can. That includes cyberthreats and cybersecurity."

Car makers around the world are working to shield vehicles from cyberattack as cars become increasingly connected.

Hackers working with Wired in 2015 forced a Jeep four-wheel-drive off the road in the US by disabling key systems accessed wirelessly through the car's infotainment display, triggering action throughout the automotive industry.

While Tesla regularly updates vehicles over the air with changes to safety features such as its "autopilot" driving assistance suite, traditionally conservative marques such as Mercedes and Toyota have expressed reluctance to allow vulnerable elements of a vehicle's core systems to go online.