Government committed to combating cybercrime

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Monday, 17 July, 2017

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The federal government has reaffirmed its commitment to combating cybercrime in the face of the growing prevalence and sophistication of attacks.

The Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) handled 11,260 cybersecurity incidents last year, including 439 involving systems of national interest and critical infrastructure, according to Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.

In a speech to the International Conference on Cybercrime and Computer Forensics in Queensland, Keenan said poor cybersecurity is conservatively estimated to cost Australians over $1 billion per year.

Between January 2015 and June 2017, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) also responded to 1766 cybersecurity incidents involving government systems considered serious enough to require operational responses.

Due to the growing use of ransomware by cybercriminals, the number of referrals to the AFP’s Cybercrime Operations involving extortion attempts also grew from just one in FY16 to 14 in FY17. Intrusion referrals increased from 10 to 15 over the same period.

At the event, Keenan detailed the government’s $230 million national Cyber Security Strategy, as well as additional investments to improve agencies’ response capabilities.

These include $20.4 million for the AFP to strengthen cyber defences and $16 million to expand the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s cybercrime intelligence capability, as well as investments to launch the Critical Infrastructure Centre to help protect key infrastructure from sabotage, espionage and coercion.

Keenan also addressed the government’s recent decision to instruct the ASD to use its offensive capabilities to disrupt, degrade, deny and deter organised offshore cybercriminals.

“The use of offensive cyber capabilities will add to the government’s crime-fighting arsenal and forms part of our broader strategy to shut down safe havens for offshore cybercriminals and prevent new ones from starting,” he said.

He said the move is particularly important because the global fight against terrorism has increasingly moved into cyberspace.

“This government has recognised that the threat of malicious cyber activity is serious and growing. We have taken a leading multifaceted approach to ensure the safety and security of all Australians online,” Keenan said.

“We are supporting small business to develop their cyber capabilities, we are boosting collaboration with industry domestically and globally, we are securing critical infrastructure and, importantly, we are building cyber resilience... This government is committed to combating cybercrime in all its forms, regardless of its target.”

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