Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia Tackling the ransomware epidemic through global collaboration

Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia

For Australia, tackling the ransomware epidemic requires global teamwork

  • Ransomware is currently the top security concern, dominating headlines while affecting CII sectors, nations, and borders
  • Australia is strengthening its collaboration with global partners from all sectors of society to combat ransomware

Ransomware is no longer just a nuisance to multiple machines. It has evolved into a significant, systemic threat that affects entire networks of significant businesses. Ransomware is currently a top security concern that crosses borders and impacts Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) industries and countries, dominating headlines. Organizations must come together and form a global collaboration to combat it in order to be ready for any potential risks and consequences.

The threat ransomware poses

Managing the risk and effects of ransomware attacks continues to be challenging for businesses of all sizes and sectors. To effectively reduce the threats and effects that it poses, it is essential to have a rigorous approach to strategy, planning, identification, research, resolution, recovery, reporting, and prevention of ransomware attacks.

The variety of potential attackers and attack vectors is one of the biggest problems ransomware attacks pose.

Incidents like the ransomware demands on Colonial Pipeline and JBS in the recent past should serve as significant warnings to businesses. They emphasize the necessity of operating with the mindset that you are a target regardless of your industry and taking action to ensure that your staff are aware and your processes are ready.

In recent years, ransomware attacks have proliferated throughout the connected world. How can nations cooperate in fighting it? How can the public and private sectors collaborate, and what part does the private sector play in these initiatives?

How do nations respond to the threat?

Ransomware is considered the most destructive kind of cybercrime in Australia, according to Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, who was present at the Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW). Australia has recently been the target of ransomware attacks aimed at telcos, hospitals, the logistics industry, breweries, and the food industry, to mention a few. The recent Optus data breach in the country also sparked debates on how Australian businesses manage and secure data.

“Like most developed countries, in recent times, we have begun to coordinate action across the public and private sector to build resilience against these ransomware attacks, to respond to them when they occur, and increasingly to seek to deter them,” said Watts.

Australia joined the American-led counter-ransomware program, which involves ongoing cooperation in the following areas:

  • To increase network resilience so that incidents can be avoided wherever feasible and events can be handled quickly when they do happen.
  • To address the misuse of financial systems to launder ransomware payments or engage in other profitable activities for ransomware.
  • Disrupt the ransomware industry by working with law enforcement to track and prosecute cybercriminals.
  • To combat safe havens for ransomware hackers through ongoing diplomatic engagement.

Australia understands how closely domestic cybersecurity relates to global efforts. Supporting the global south with initiatives to strengthen cyber resilience is in everyone’s best interests, especially for the developing nations in Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

“Internationally, Australia is strengthening our cooperation with government and multi-stakeholder partners across the globe to address this shared threat. Australia and Singapore are both active participants in the US-led counter ransomware initiative, which seeks to enhance diplomatic efforts and international cooperation to combat the ransomware threat,” said Watts. “Australia and Malaysia jointly initiated an ASEAN region forum points of contact directory as a simple practical and voluntary measure to maintain clear channels of communication in the event of cybersecurity incidents.”

Furthermore, Australia collaborates with regional partners like Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Papa New Guinea, and Samoa to improve capacity, take full advantage of opportunities, and reduce risks associated with the use of critical technologies and cyberspace.

“Australia collaborated with the National Bank of Vanuatu under the initiative to strengthen its defenses against preventable cybersecurity incidents. With a presence on more than 20 of Vanuatu’s dispersed islands, The National Bank of Vanuatu is the only commercial bank operating outside of Port Vila and Luganville. For the National Bank of Vanuatu to secure thousands of customers’ finances, data, and livelihoods, effective cybersecurity is essential, Watts concluded.