The government has given the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) the go-ahead use its ‘offensive cyber capabilities’ to fight offshore cyber crooks.
Dan Tehan, the minister assisting PM Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that the government has directed the ASD to “use its cyber capabilities to disrupt, degrade, deny and deter offshore criminals.”
The government publicly acknowledged the ASD’s offensive cyber capability when it launched Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy in April 2016.
“The use of this capability, which is currently used to help target, disrupt and defeat terrorist organisations such as Daesh, is subject to stringent legal oversight and consistent with our obligations under international law,” Tehan said.
“The use of offensive cyber capabilities will add to the government’s crime-fighting arsenal and form part of our broader strategy to prevent and shut down safe havens for offshore cyber criminals.”
Tehan said the ASD’s response to cyber threats – such as the WannaCry and Petya ransonware attacks – should not just be defensive.
“We must take the fight to the criminals,” he said. “Cyber criminals continue to adapt and evolve their methods and tactics, increasingly employing new methods to gain access to a victim and extort funds. As their level of sophistication has improved, cyber criminals are increasingly targeting businesses directly.”
It is estimated that cybercrime costs the Australian economy $1 billion per year. Since its inception at the end of 2014, there have been more than 114,000 reports of cybercrime registered with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network. The government said that 23,700 of these have been reported over the last 6 months.