The Australian government is continuing to strike back against offshore cybercriminals who are conducting COVID-19 related malicious activities, through an operation being led by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds. (PHOTO: Government Photo)

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said ASD remains on the front foot when it comes to protecting Australians from malicious cyber activity. “This operation has protected hundreds of Australians and thousands more foreigners from organised and sophisticated foreign cybercriminals,” Reynolds said. “These cybercriminals have been targeting Australians through COVID-19 themed SMS phishing campaigns that are designed to trick Australians into downloading advanced criminal malware onto their mobile phones. 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.”

Supported by intelligence reporting from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, ASD acted after it identified the business model adopted by the sophisticated criminal syndicates. The Australian Federal Police supported this operation by collaborating with its international law enforcement partners – demonstrating the effectiveness and importance of close working relationships among Australia’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the government is committed to protecting Australians from foreign cybercrime syndicates. “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,” Dutton said. “We can’t sit by while a marketplace exists for sophisticated cybercrime tools to be used against Australians.”

Meanwhile, the government also announced a new program to encourage Australian citizens to strengthen their cyber defences and be alert to online threats. The new Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) cyber security campaign provides easy-to-follow advice for Australian families, business and organisations on how to protect themselves from cyber threats.

Reynolds launched the new ACSC campaign that will initially run on social media and digital platforms. “Cybercriminals are relentless, operating around the clock and around the world, in a bid to steal the data and money from Australian businesses and families,” said Reynolds. “Australians are reporting more than one cybercrime every 10 minutes, making it more important than ever that we all remain alert to the threat of cybercrime. I urge all Australians to go online and visit for tips on how to act now and stay secure. Even small steps can make a big difference.”

The government’s A$1.67 billion investment in the Cyber Security Strategy 2020 complements the act now and stay secure online national campaign.

The head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Abigail Bradshaw, said 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,” Bradshaw said. “New technologies in our pockets, homes and offices are bringing huge benefits, but as soon as these devices connect to the internet they become vulnerable to compromise.”

The cyber security campaign also aims to encourage more Australians to report cyber incidents through the ACSC’s ReportCyber tool, which provides a single online portal for individuals and business to report cyber incidents.


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