The Commonwealth government has launched a multi-agency taskforce charged with thwarting sophisticated cyber crime organisations in Australia and abroad.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has been tasked with leading a new multi-agency operation targeting ransomware, Operation Orcus.
The AFP will work alongside the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), AUSTRAC, state and territory police, and industry stakeholders to:
- better identify opportunities to disrupt ransomware operations;
- strengthen the investigation of ransomware across Australia, and internationally; and
- Improve intelligence sharing and coordination between agencies on ransomware and the organised crime groups engaged in ransomware attacks.
This new taskforce forms part of the $89.9 million funding boost for the AFP, aimed at enhancing its operational capabilities to identify, disrupt and investigate cyber crime. This includes 100 new police, intelligence officers and technical specialists.
Under the new arrangement, the AFP will expand in-house staff numbers at the ACSC from 13 to 35.
“Time’s up for the organised criminals who prey on our schools, hospitals, businesses, and private citizens with this despicable technology,” Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said.
“… This strong action should come as no surprise; I’ve said consistently that increasing cybersecurity and cracking down on cyber crime are my top priorities.”
Minister Andrews urged victims of ransomware attacks not to pay cyber criminals, encouraging them to instead contact police and the ACSC.
“Don’t reward criminal behaviour with a payment, especially when there is no guarantee you’ll get anything back,” the minister added.
The launch of Operation Orcus comes just weeks after the federal Labor opposition proposed new cyber security reforms in the House of Representatives.
The Ransomware Payments Bill 2021, introduced by shadow assistant minister for communication and cyber security Tim Watts, would require local organisations to inform the ACSC before making a payment to a cyber criminal.
“There is an urgent need for this bill,” Watts said.
“The Australian Cyber Security Centre has labelled ransomware the 'highest cyber threat' facing Australian businesses.
“Indeed, it’s more than just a threat to business; ransomware is a significant national security threat in its own right.”