Australians have been targeted by international cybercriminals through Covid-19 themed SMS phishing campaigns designed to trick them into downloading advanced criminal malware onto their mobile phones.
But the Federal government has enrolled the help of the country’s cyber warfare spies to strike back against the threat posed by what it says are organised and sophisticated offshore networks.
The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – the intelligence agency responsible for intercepting foreign signals, cyber warfare and supporting military operations – is working with the Federal Police and Criminal Intelligence Commission, as well as overseas law enforcement partners, to protect Australians from malicious cyber activity.
ASD is using offensive cyber capabilities
“This operation has protected hundreds of Australians and thousands more foreigners from organised and sophisticated foreign cybercriminals,” defence minister Linda Reynolds said.
“ASD is using its offensive cyber capabilities to attack the cybercriminals’ tools – disrupting their operations and interrupting their ability to exploit Australians.
“In doing so, ASD has successfully disrupted the business model of key foreign cybercrime syndicates targeting Australians and exposing potential victims to significant financial losses.”
Hacking tools more accessible to criminals
Supported by intelligence reporting from the Criminal Intelligence Commission, ASD acted after it identified the business model adopted by the sophisticated criminal syndicates, Reynolds noted.
Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, added that the threat and impact of foreign cybercriminals has been amplified through malware developers selling or renting out their products through the dark web, making high-end hacking tools more accessible to criminals lacking in technical sophistication.
“We can’t sit by while a marketplace exists for sophisticated cybercrime tools to be used against Australians,” Dutton stated.
In tandem with the revelations, the Australian Cyber Security Centre yesterday launched a cyber security campaign designed to provide easy-to-follow advice for families, businesses and other organisations on how to protect themselves from cyber threats.
One cybercrime reported every 10 minutes
According to a media statement, Australians are reporting more than one cybercrime every 10 minutes, making it more important than ever that people all remain alert to the threat of cybercrime.
The campaign will see continuous and practical cyber security advice provided to all Australians, beginning with ransomware.
“Ransomware is a type of malware that locks up your files until a ransom is paid. Criminals can steal a copy of files to coerce you to pay the ransom by threatening to publicly leak or sell your data,” Abigail Bradshaw, head of the Cyber Security Centre, explained.