New Australian ransomware scheme allows cryptocurrency seizure

Australian lawmakers are taking a stronger stance against ransomware with a new plan that increases penalties for offenders.

The new measures and the proposed amendment to surveillance legislation announced by the federal government on October 13 follow a 60% increase in cyberattacks against Australian companies and state agencies last year. These raids reportedly cost the economy A $ 1.4 billion (approximately US $ 1 billion).

The ransomware action plan would give authorities the power to seize or freeze financial transactions in cryptocurrencies associated with cybercrime, regardless of the country of origin.

The government aims to modernize current legislation to make it easier for authorities to attempt to recover crypto funds stolen by cybercriminals.

Home Secretary Karen Andrews said the new measures were designed to deter international hackers from targeting Australian companies by international hackers. “Our tough new laws will target this online crime and target cybercriminals where it hurts the most – their bank balances,” he added.

The processing of stolen data and the buying and selling of malware used in ransomware attacks will also be penalized.

A multi-agency task force called Operation Orcus was created in July to tackle ransomware attacks. Most of the attacks originate in Russia with the deployment of malware such as REvil or DarkSide that encrypts or steals data and then demands a ransom in cryptocurrencies.

There have been several recent ransomware attacks against Australian targets, including Uniting Care Queensland, Lion brewing company, Nine Entertainment, NSW Labor Party, Toll Holdings, and BlueScope Steel. The attack on meat processing company JBS in May forced it to close its 47 sites in Australia.

Related: Don’t Blame Crypto For Ransomware

US lawmakers are also stepping up their efforts to combat ransomware. Earlier this month, anti-crypto senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Ransom Disclosure Act, which was aimed at gathering data on the role of cryptocurrency in ransomware attacks.

On October 6, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis bought cybercrime investigation firm Excygent to bolster its arsenal in the ongoing war against ransomware.

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