Info-tech

Cyber crime spreads in Australia as Covid pushes more people online

Reuters Sydney | Updated on September 15, 2021

Ransomware incidents up nearly 15 per cent, health sector reports second-highest number of attacks

Australia reported on Wednesday a 13 per cent jump in cyber crime in the past year, with about one incident in four targeting critical infrastructure and services as working from home during the pandemic made more people vulnerable to online attacks.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received one cybercrime report every eight minutes over the 12 months to June 30, 2021, it said in its annual report.

Surge in cybercrime amidst Covid pandemic; 86% involved in phishing: Study

Hackers have switched their focus to people working remotely online, and used fear created by Covid-19 to actively target vulnerable people and health services to conduct espionage, and steal money and sensitive data, Assistant Minister of Defence Andrew Hastie said in a statement.

Charges against China

Ransomware incidents increased nearly 15 per cent, with the health sector reporting the second-highest number of attacks.

Ransom software works by encrypting victims’ data and typically hackers will offer victims a passcode or a ‘key’ to retrieve it in return for cryptocurrency payments that can run into millions of dollars.

Taking on cybercrime

“Malicious cyber criminals are escalating their attacks on Australians,” Hastie said.

In June last year, Australia said it was being targeted by a “sophisticated state-based cyber actor” with the attacks targeting all levels of the government, political parties and essential service providers. Sources told Reuters that Australia viewed China as the chief suspect, which Beijing has denied.

In July this year, the US and its allies, including Australia, accused China of a global cyber espionage campaign, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said posed “a major threat to our economic and national security”.

ID Care, which works with regulators to support identity theft victims, said the ACSC figures were the “tip of the iceberg” because many victims did not report to authorities. It said it had experienced a 47 per cent jump in complaints so far in 2021, compared to 2020 which was itself a record year.

“The general indicators are that it’s not slowing and is likely to increase,” ID Care managing director David Lacey said.

“It’s a perfect storm for scammers, it’s conditions that they love and thrive in.”

Published on September 15, 2021

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