Cyber new battleground as pandemic increases reliance on web

Aussies are increasingly relying on the internet to remain connected, but security agencies warn remote working is the new battleground for bad actors.

Cyber criminals sought to exploit Australians working from home like never before in the last year, with the number of reported cyber security incidents jumping 13 per cent.

The dramatic rise has security agencies warning cyber is the new battleground for actors trying to disrupt Australia’s democracy.

New data from the Australian Cyber Security Centre has revealed over 67,500 cyber crime reports were made in the last financial year.

On average, reports of cyber crime incidents were made every eight to ten minutes. The ACSC estimates cybercrime has cost Australian businesses and individuals $33 billion.

Cyber espionage remains one of the greatest threats to Australia’s national security, Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said

“Cyber warfare and cyber espionage is a very common tactic which threatens to undermine international co-operation, and the rules-based global order,” he said.

“Australia is being targeted by a range of actors, from state sponsored actors looking to gain strategic advantage, to financially motivated cyber criminals looking to make a profit, to motivated groups and even terrorist groups and extremists looking to disrupt and destabilise Australian democracy.

“This type of activity blurs the distinction between peace and war. And it‘s a favoured tactic of authoritarian regimes, seeking an advantage through asymmetric means.”

He warned with many Australians working remotely, individuals and businesses have become a “much bigger target” for bad actors.

ACSC head Abigail Bradshaw said the pandemic was the major influence in the report’s findings.

“It‘s shaped both the targets that malicious actors are going after and it’s shaped the vectors, or the means by which those targets are accessed,” she said.

Additionally, approximately one quarter of reported cyber security incidents affected critical infrastructure, including essential services such as education, communications, electricity, water and transport.

The health sector reported the second highest number of ransomware incidents, and incidence grew as Covid-19 vaccines were developed and rolled out.

Overall, there were 14 incidents reported where material was removed or deleted on federal government or national infrastructure supply chains.

In July, Australia joined with the US, UK and the EU to attribute an attack on Microsoft Exchange servers to China.

Australian Signals Directorate boss Rachel Noble told a parliamentary inquiry the attack put an estimated 70,000 Australian entities and businesses at risk.

It’s understood, despite the public attribution of the attack to China, several entities have yet to patch their system and remain compromised.

Originally published as Cyber new battleground as pandemic increases reliance on web


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