Frontier Software payroll company hacked


Frontier Technology chief executive Nick Southcombe said the company expected to restore its systems “in a staged process over the coming days based on technical requirements and security considerations”.

Meanwhile, it had engaged cyber-security firm Cyber CX to investigate and on Tuesday started rolling out “specific additional software” for clients to access to bring them back online.

“Approximately 330 Australian employers have been impacted in some way. However, not all of those employers are processing pay-runs this week,” Mr Southcombe said.

“We have been communicating closely with customers impacted by this incident and keeping them updated on time frames for restoration of our systems.”

No ransom demand

Employers that host Frontier on their own servers, including Herbert Smith Freehills, Ramsay Health Care and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, have not been affected.

The attack is part of a surge in cyber attacks on Australian companies over the past four weeks, including in mining, professional services, technology, food and beverage, healthcare and construction.

However, the Frontier hack is unusual because five days on there still has been no ransom demand.

Companies using the software have also had to advise their board, insurers and regulators of potential privacy breaches given the uncertainty over whether hackers have accessed employees’ private data.

Mr Southcombe said the company was “still investigating to fully understand the nature of the incident”.

“However, we have not identified any evidence at this time that customer data or computer systems have been compromised as a result of this incident,” he said.

The hack forced Frontier to communicate via Gmail and its reception desk at its Melbourne head office was unable to transfer calls on Wednesday because it could not access anyone’s contact details. The company said it had set up a dedicated phone line and email for customer support.

A 2021 payroll benchmarking report by the Australian Payroll Association showed Frontier topped all other payroll products among companies with more than 2000 employees – taking a 27 per cent market share compared with 17 per cent for the second most popular product.

Among employers with between 500 and 1999 employees, Frontier is ranked second with 22.6 per cent market share.

Australian Payroll Association chief executive Tracy Angwin said the incident “shows how important it is for employers to have disaster recovery processes, even when you outsource the payroll technology”.

“Payroll should be on the risk register of every employer, no matter what the employer’s delivery strategy is. Issues happen in businesses every day, but when things go wrong in payroll, they can go spectacularly wrong very quickly,” Ms Angwin said.

“In such a tight labour market the last thing an employer needs is the inability to pay their staff, leading them to look for a job elsewhere.”

United Workers Union national casino director Dario Mujkic said security guards, hospitality workers, gaming staff and cleaners at Federal Group had had their pay delayed but praised the employer for getting ahead of the problem with some advance payments.

“These are not high-wage workers. Our members live week to week, fortnight to fortnight – missing a weekly payment can be a big issue,” he said.

“People are also going to have a concern about their data being safe and secure. From what we’ve heard from Federal Group there’s been no breach but we want to double- and triple-check that.”

A Federal Group spokesman said on Wednesday afternoon that its access to the Frontier software had been restored.

“All staff are expected to be paid on time and we do not anticipate any further issues.”



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