Australian Cyber Security Centre launches domain service to protect from cyber attacks

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Essential government agencies will be better protected from ransomware attacks and other cyber crimes under a new automatic service launched by the federal cyber security agency.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has revealed plans to offer stronger protection against malicious cyber attack with a new service for federal, state and territory government entities who perform critical services.

The free opt-in system, called the Australian Protective Domain Name Service, will automatically check email addresses and websites against a database of high-risk threats to stop infiltration attempts.

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said it only took accessing a well-placed email or website to infiltrate and undermine a government network.

"It's vital we do everything we can to prevent cybercriminals from gaining a foothold," he said.

"The AUPDNS has already analysed over 10 billion queries and blocked over one million connections to malicious domains, and this technology formed part of the defensive suite that helped to protect this year's digital Census.

"Currently AUPDNS is protecting over 200,000 users, and this number is growing."

The latest government cyber threat report revealed 35 per cent of cyber incidents between 2020-21 were against federal, state, territory, and local governments.

Mr Hastie will address industry experts and leaders on Thursday, urging businesses to partner with the government's cyber security centre in the fight against cyber crime.

Industry and government must work as a team sharing knowledge and expertise to strengthen cyber systems and address vulnerabilities, particularly within critical infrastructure, he is expected to say.

The cyber agency has more than 1700 network partners, 2000 business partners, along with thousands more home partners.

Ransomware attacks were among the most concerning cyber threats for the federal government but the assistant minister believes the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) is up to the task.

"ASD also brings decades of expertise and the latest technology to identify, degrade and disrupt our cyber adversaries," Mr Hastie will say.

"Where necessary and with proper oversight, the government through ASD is taking offensive cyber action, drawing on ASD's unique capabilities to disable the infrastructure of offshore cyber-criminals responsible for stealing money and data from Australians.

"We have the right tools and, when needed, the right weapons to take the fight to our cyber adversaries."

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It comes as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews flagged on Wednesday plans to introduce mandatory reporting of ransomware attacks for the private sector.

Under the new rules, companies with an annual turnover of more than $10 million would be forced to report any incidences to the government.

Additional laws would also make knowingly dealing with stolen data an offence along with the buying or selling of malware for criminal purposes.

"Ransomware gangs have attacked businesses, individuals and critical infrastructure right across the country," Ms Andrews said.

"Our tough new laws will target this online criminality, and hit cybercrooks where it hurts most - their bank balances."

The audit office earlier this year revealed a number of federal agencies were lagging behind in cyber security requirements, exposing their networks to serious threats and data breaches.

It also found cyber security risk mitigation strategies had not been "fully effective" and the intelligence agencies, which were required to assist the entities, had been failing to provide support.

This story Govt launches service to thwart ransomware attacks, cyber crimes first appeared on The Canberra Times.