Australian lawmakers are taking a stronger stance against ransomware with a new plan that increases penalties for violators.
The new measures and proposed amendment to surveillance legislation announced by the federal government on October 13 follow a 60% increase in cyber attacks against Australian businesses and state agencies last year. According to reports, these incursions cost the economy A $ 1.4 billion (approximately US $ 1 billion).
The Ransomware Action Plan would give authorities the power to seize or freeze financial transactions in cryptocurrencies associated with cybercrime, regardless of the country of origin.
The government aims to modernize current legislation to make it easier for authorities to attempt to recover crypto funds stolen by cybercriminals.
Home Secretary Karen Andrews said the new measures were designed to deter the targeting of Australian businesses by international hackers. “Our tough new laws will target this online crime and hit cyber crooks where it hurts the most – their bank balances,” she added.
The processing of stolen data and the buying and selling of malware used in ransomware attacks will also be criminalized.
A multi-agency task force called Operation Orcus was set up in July to tackle ransomware attacks. Most attacks originate in Russia with the deployment of malware such as REvil or DarkSide that encrypts or steals data and then demands a ransom in cryptocurrency.
There have been several recent ransomware attacks on Australian targets, including Uniting Care Queensland, the Lion brewing company, Nine Entertainment, the NSW Labor Party, Toll Holdings and BlueScope Steel. The attack on the meat processing company JBS in May forced it to close its 47 sites in Australia.
Related: Don’t Blame Crypto For Ransomware
U.S. lawmakers are also stepping up efforts to tackle ransomware. Earlier this month, anti-crypto Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Ransom Disclosure Act, which aimed to collect data on the role of cryptocurrency in ransomware attacks.
On October 6, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis purchased cybercrime investigation firm Excygent to bolster its arsenal in the ongoing war on ransomware.