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Australia sets up taskforce to track ‘Russia-based’ hackers

Australia has formalised a new cyber-policing model in a stepped-up effort to
“hunt down” cyber criminal syndicates, following recent hacks
impacting millions of Australians.

On Saturday, Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil said the government had formalised a permanent partnership 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.

O’Neil said 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 criminal syndicates”.

The taskforce would “day in, day out, hunt down the scumbags who are responsible for these malicious crimes”, she said.

Australia’s biggest health insurer, Medibank Private Ltd, last month was hit by a massive cyber attack, as
Australia grapples with a rise in damaging hacks.

At least eight companies, including Singapore
Telecommunications-owned telecoms company Optus,
Australia’s second largest telco, have reported breaches since

READ MORE: Russian hackers carried out cyberattack on Medibank: Australia

Gang located in Russia

The government’s announcement comes after the AFP news agency claimed on Friday said Russia-based
hackers were behind the attack on Medibank, which compromised
data from around 10 million current and former customers.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, speaking alongside O’Neil in
Melbourne, refused to be drawn on whether the ransomware group
REvil was responsible for recent cyber attacks on Australians.

“I won’t be commenting on operational matters like that, but
what we do know … is that it is a very organised criminal gang
and that it is located in Russia,” Dreyfus said.

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.

READ MORE: Hackers demand $10M to stop Australia health record leaks

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