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Australia joins forces with UK and US to fight cyber attacks from Russia

Fight Against Cyber Attacks

Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom on Tuesday (January 23) imposed cyber sanctions on a Russian man for his role in a data breach of Australian private insurance company Medibank, one of the largest data thefts in the country. Approximately 10 million customers were affected by cyber attacks.

Australia has seen a surge in reports of cybercrime (cyber attacks) in recent years, with companies disclosing hacking incidents, prompting the Australian government last year to overhaul its cybersecurity rules and set up an agency to help coordinate responses.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told a news briefing that Russian citizen Aleksandr Ermakov was targeted after Australian authorities linked him to the Medibank breach (cyber attacks).

“These people are cowards; they are despicables,” O’Neill said. “They hide behind technology, and today the Australian government made it clear that when we put our minds to it, we will reveal your identities and make sure you are held accountable for your actions.”

This is the first time the Australian government has used its cyber sanctions framework, which was legislated for in 2021. The sanctions make it a criminal offense to provide Yermakov with any assets, including cryptocurrency wallets or ransomware payments, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines.

Nigel Phair, a professor of cybersecurity at Australia’s Monash University, said sanctions may not lead to the arrests of hackers or necessarily stop others from targeting Australian assets, but the government’s move “is a move in the right direction, “a step forward.”

“It hinders the operations of cybercriminals (cyber attacks) to the extent that it reduces their ability to collaborate with others to engage in criminal activity in the future,” Phil said.

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The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement on Tuesday that Yermakov Washington and Britain also imposed sanctions on him due to the risks he posed. The United States froze his assets in the United States and imposed a general ban on Americans doing business with him.

Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Counterterrorism and Financial Intelligence, said: “Today’s trilateral action with Australia and the United Kingdom is the first of its kind and underscores our collective commitment to hold these criminals accountable. Determination.”

Medibank disclosed in 2022 that a hacker had stolen the personal information of 9.7 million current and former customers and published the data on the dark web (cyber attacks).

According to an Australian government report in November last year, state-backed cyber organizations and hackers have increased their attacks on Australia’s critical infrastructure, businesses, and homes, with cyber attacks likely to occur every six minutes.

In November, hackers attacked DP World Australia, one of Australia’s largest port operators, forcing it to suspend operations for three days. Authorities in Victoria revealed earlier this month that a database of court recordings had been breached, affecting recording and transcription services.

In addition to dealing with hackers from Russia, defense officials from the “Five Eyes” alliance—the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—met in Singapore on January 21 to focus on China’s challenges. In October last year, the intelligence chiefs of the “Five Eyes Alliance” countries issued a rare joint statement, accusing China of stealing intellectual property and using artificial intelligence to conduct hacking and espionage activities. The statement pointed out that China is stealing secrets in various fields, from quantum technology and robotics to biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time that this “unprecedented” joint statement was in response to the “unprecedented threat” posed by China to global innovation.

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