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Australia Establishes Task Force to Hunt Down Hackers

Minister reveals a standing force of 100 cyber experts

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Signals Directorate has initiated a joint operation to investigate and disrupt cyber criminals that target Australian citizens and organisations.

In a joint statement released by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, Defence Minister Richard Marles and Attorney-General Mark Drefus, it was announced that the operation would prioritise targets based on potential harm and threat to national interests. 

“The operation will collect intelligence and identify ring-leaders, networks and infrastructure in order to disrupt and stop their operations – regardless of where they are,” the statement read. 

“The recent Optus and Medibank data breaches have shown the extent of the damage that can be done by malicious actors. This new joint campaign will ensure the full powers of the AFP and ASD are brought to bear to stop such incidents before they start.

“Where incidents do take place, it means that cybercriminals will be hunted down and their networks disrupted. It sends an important message to criminals and hackers intending to do harm – Australia will fight back.”

The task force will be hosted by the Department of Home Affairs Cyber and Critical Technology Coordination Centre, and will drive international cooperation and joint efforts to tackle ransomware, including through information exchanges, sharing and legal authority frameworks, and collaboration with law enforcement and cyber authorities. 

Speaking on ABC’s Insider program, Minister O’Neil said the task force represented an entirely new model of operating for AFP and the ASD.

“What they will do is scour the world, hunt down the criminal syndicates and gangs who are targeting Australia in cyber attacks and disrupt their efforts,” she said

“This is Australia standing up and punching back, we are not going to sit back while our citizens are treated like this and allow there to be no consequences for that.”

O’Neil added the task force was a permanent standing force of 100 of the best cyber experts in Australia, that would for the first time be offensively attacking hackers.

“This is not a model of policing where we wait for a crime to be committed and then try to understand who it is and do something to the people who are responsible,” she told the ABC’s David Speers  

“We are offensively going to find these people, hunt them down and debilitate them before they can attack our country.”