Why Australia needs a $630 million stick to ward off cyber crime

Cybercrime is estimated to cost the Australian public up to $1 billion each year, with 114,000 reports listed with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network since 2014.

This is why the Australian Government has launched a raft of measures, totalling $630 million, to beef up cyber security in this country.

That includes a military grade unit that will attack hackers and shut them down before they can strike Australian businesses and individuals.

A problems that is ‘rife’

There have been 23,700 reported instances of cybercrime on Australians in the opening six months of 2017 alone.

Symantec is the world’s largest cyber security company and its chief executive Greg Clark warns the problem is even bigger because so many attacks go unreported.

“It’s rife in Australia,” he said. “(Australia) is definitely a place of serious interest to these bad actors. It’s real, it’s really real. This is happening way more than people realise.”

And it is not just SMEs at risk, with Mr Clark citing several instances where Australian investment bankers had been locked down by international hackers.

The measures included in the $630 million package

The process started in 2014, when the Federal Government established the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

This service allows members of the public to report cybercrime and also offers tips and advice on how to protect yourself from attacks.

Since then, the mandatory data breach notification laws have been debated in parliament and are set to finally be put into practice in February 2018. This will mean businesses hit by attackers, where customer and client data has been compromised, must make the information available to government and the public.

And most recently the Federal Government authorised the use of military grade cyber crime units against international hackers that are attacking domestic businesses and individuals.

This means the fight has now shifted from defence to offence.

Why offence is the best defence

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared war on international cyber criminals in June when he announced that: “We must take the fight to the criminals.”

The government’s Australian Signals Directorate, run by the Australian Defence Force, began civilian operations on July 1.

It engages these hackers with offensive cyber strikes to shut them down before they can hit Australian businesses and individuals.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten offered bipartisan support for the initiative, saying the cyber attacks were not only directed at big businesses and banks.

“The criminals and those who would wish us harm might chase what they see as soft targets. I am talking about small and medium enterprises. I’m talking about the data privacy in our hospital system,” he said.

While the government’s move to attack hackers operating in international territories which do not have cyber security laws will assist greatly in stopping these rogue operators in their tracks, there is plenty that SMEs can do themselves to minimise the risk.

For more information go to www.acorn.gov.au.

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