Australia’s Federal Defence Minister has said that cyberattacks are blurring the lines between peace and war, saying that the “new normal” is alarming considering that the rate of cyberattacks has increased.
Reynolds’ remarks come as the Australian Cyber Security Centre says that it has responded to 2,226 cyber attacks, on the back of more than 59,806 reports of cybercrime in a 12-month span leading to June 30.
The head of the Australian Signals Directorate, Rachel Noble earlier this week took the unusual step of saying publicly that the ASD faces a “near impossible” campaign of fighting cybercrime and espionage attacks.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has said that in the increasing frequency and severity of cyber attacks “really does blur what we previously understood to be peace and war, which is what we call that grey zone in between.”
Reynolds added that “we’re now facing an environment where cyber-enabled activities have the potential to drive disinformation, and also directly support interference in our economy, interference in our political system, and also in what we see as critical infrastructure.”
The remarks come ahead of the official release of the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) first cyber security threat report, due for release in the coming weeks.
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The ABC is reporting that “it is understood the Government wants to introduce a regime that would make it mandatory for operators of critical infrastructure to report cyber attacks. This would likely include banks, telecommunications and utility operators.”
Reynolds has said that there were two dominant spikes in the 12-month period leading up to June, 2020. The first, a spike in October, 2019 occurred when a malicious piece of software – malware – was found targeting financial and personal information of unsuspecting victims with as many as 4,500 emails each day.
The second spike was reported in April, 2020, where rates of COVID-19 related cybercrime jumped noticeably.
Reynolds has said that “at one end of the spectrum there are opportunistic cyber criminals who target Australia and Australian companies for financial gain, and at the other end of the same spectrum, there are sophisticated and very well-resourced state based actors who are seeking to interfere in our nation.”
In June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a news conference confirming that Australian institutions, companies and individuals were under attack from a “sophisticated state-based cyber actor.”
At the time, Morrison said that the attack was impacting “all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure.”
In her most recent remarks, Defence Minister Reynolds said that “I can assure you all today that the threat has not diminished since then – in fact, it has increased.”
“We can observe, we can gain intelligence, we can analyse it, and we do very much share that information,” she said. “But ultimately, it is up to every single Australian and all companies to make sure that they take the best possible protections.”