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Australia says state-sponsored cyber groups targeting critical infrastructure amid spike in hacks

State-sponsored cyber groups and hackers have stepped up their assault on Australia’s critical infrastructure, businesses and homes, a government report released on Wednesday showed, with one attack happening every six minutes.

Australia has seen a spike in cyber intrusions, prompting the government in February to set up an agency to help coordinate responses to hacks. Earlier this week, the government released some details of its proposed cyber laws that would force companies to report all ransomware incidents.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received over 94,000 reports of cybercrime over the financial year to June, up 23% from the previous period, ACSC’s annual threat report said.

“The cyber threat continues to grow … we’re also seeing a greater interest from state actors in Australia’s critical infrastructure,” Defense Minister Richard Marles told ABC Radio.

In May, the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and Microsoft said a state-sponsored Chinese hacking group has been spying on a wide range of US critical infrastructure organizations. United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK make up the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.

The techniques used by the China hacking group could be used against Australia’s critical infrastructure sectors from telecommunications, energy to transportation hubs, the ACSC report said.

Mr. Marles said Australia’s relationship with China, its largest trading partner, was “complex” and the government had never pretended the relationship would be easy. The diplomatic and trade ties between the two countries have stabilized recently after several disputes since 2020.

“We value, clearly, a productive relationship with China … but China has been a source of security anxiety for our country and we prepare for that as well,” Mr. Marles said.

The ACSC report comes after a cyber incident at DP World Australia, one of the country’s largest ports operators, forced it to suspend operations for three days.

Cyber attacks against Australia will continue to rise until organizations started putting more effort into security and the risk management of their information assets, said Nigel Phair, cybersecurity professor at Monash University. – Reuters

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