Australia to consider banning paying of ransoms to hackers
Published: Nov 13, 2022 10:16 PM
Australia's Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil on Sunday said the government would consider making illegal the paying of ransoms to cyber hackers, following recent cyberattacks affecting millions of Australians.

Australia's biggest health insurer, Medibank Private Ltd, in October suffered a massive cyberattack, as Australia grapples with a rise in hacks.

Singapore Telecommunications-owned telecoms company Optus, Australia's second-largest telco, and at least eight other companies have been breached since September.

Asked on ABC television on Sunday whether the government planned to look at outlawing ransom payments to cyber criminals, O'Neil said "that's correct."

"We will do that in the context of ... cyber strategy," she said.

The comments come after O'Neil, on Saturday, formalized a new cyber-policing model between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Signals Directorate - which intercepts electronic communications from foreign countries - to do "new tough policing" on cybercrime.

Around 100 officers would be part of the new partnership between the two federal agencies, which would act as a joint standing operation against cyber criminals.

The task force would "day in, day out, hunt down the scumbags who are responsible for these malicious crimes," she said.

Hackers on Thursday demanded $10 million to stop leaking highly sensitive records stolen from Medibank, as they uploaded yet more intimate details about customers. Medibank has repeatedly refused to pay the ransom.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously said the government was doing all it could to limit the impact of the Medibank hack and had set up a phone service for affected customers to seek help from both the government and Medibank.