Australia Moves to Permit Seizure of Crypto Amid 15% Increase In Ransomware Attacks

October 15, 2021, 10:00 AM AEST - 3 days ago

The Australian government has mapped out plans to tighten the screws on ransomware attacks on local businesses and individuals. 

In a 16-page document titled the Ransomware Action Plan”, the Department of Home Affairs has outlined several measures to deter and punish cybercriminals. Part of the strategy includes the confiscation of illicit cryptocurrencies. 

Mooted Powers to ‘Seize and Freeze’

The department is seeking authorisation to seize and freeze cryptocurrency transactions that are linked to cyberattacks in Australia, irrespective of where the transaction originates from. It also seeks to modify the existing law on how law enforcement agencies can track and recover stolen funds. 

In addition to this, the government wants to criminalise the buying and selling of malware or stolen data in ransomware attacks. It also flagged plans to set up a task force within the Australian Federal Police to focus on ransomware, and legislation that requires ransomware incident reporting. 

Our tough new laws will target this online criminality and hit cybercrooks where it hurts most – their bank balances […] We need to ensure that Australia remains an unattractive target for criminals and a hostile place for them to operate.

Karen Andrews, Minister of Home Affairs

Australia Records 15% Increase in Ransomware Attacks in 2020-21

The new plan comes in response to a surge in ransomware attacks in Australia. The country has been a major target for cyber attackers. Australia reportedly recorded about a 15 percent increase in ransomware attacks in the 2020-21 financial year, at a total cost of A$1.4 billion (about US$1 billion).

Last year, Australian media market research company Nielsen was disrupted in a suspected ransomware attack. And as recently as July 2021, a number of Australian businesses were also affected by a REvil ransomware attack on their software provider, Kaseya.

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