Australia beefs up cyber defences after major breaches

Australia will give cyber health checks for small businesses, increase cyber law enforcement funding and introduce mandatory reporting of ransomware attacks under a security overhaul announced after a spate of attacks.

The federal government said it will also subject telecommunications firms to tougher cyber reporting rules which apply to critical infrastructure, seek migrants to build up the cyber security workforce and set limits on inter-agency data sharing to encourage people to report incidents.

The A$587 million ($382 million) plan shows the centre-left Labor government trying to get on the front foot after a year in which nearly half the country’s 26 million population had personal information stolen in just two data breaches at companies, while a cyber attack at its biggest port operator this month brought supply chains to a standstill.

“We cannot continue as we have,” Cyber Security and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told reporters in Sydney. “We can’t have a situation where we have data flying around the country, where we have critical infrastructure starting to fail, where we have small businesses and citizens who are continually telling us they feel vulnerable and unable to cope with the cyber threats themselves.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said national security typically meant “military assets in the traditional sense but increasingly, we’re talking about cyber … because of the economic impact that it can have.”

Cybercrime reports in Australia jumped by nearly a quarter in the year to June, with the average cost to victims up 14%, the Australian Cyber Security Centre said in a report this month, which noted a new defence agreement with the U.S. and Britain had made the country a bigger target.

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