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Australia May Ban Crypto Ransomware Payments After Latitude Financial Hack

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  • What – Australia is considering becoming a pioneer in the global fight against ransomware by banning payments demanded in cryptocurrency.
  • Why – The news circulating in the digital space comes after a major cyber-attack on a financial institution in Australia.
  • What Next – Latitude Financial, a consumer lender, recently suffered a major cyber hack that prompted the nation’s technology industry to urge the government to take action against ransom payments.

On March 16, Latitude made an announcement regarding the crypto attack it experienced, revealing that it had identified unusual activity on its systems. The company’s officials suspected that the activity was likely initiated by one of its major retailers. Per the post:

“The attacker appears to have used the employee login credentials to steal personal information held by two other service providers.”

As per the update provided by Latitude on March 27, It has not detected any further suspicious activity following the incident on March 16. Nonetheless, the attack caused significant damage, leading to it being termed the most extensive cyber incident in the entire history of Australia and New Zealand. The update entailed:

“As our forensic review continues to progress, we have identified that approximately 7.9 million Australian and New Zealand driver’s license numbers were stolen, of which approximately 3.2 million, or 40%, were provided to us in the last 10 years. In addition, approximately 53,000 passport numbers were stolen. We have also identified less than 100 customers who had a monthly financial statement stolen.”

On April 11, the lender firm announced to its community that it had received a ransom demand from the perpetrators. Latitude Finance, however, has taken a bold step by refusing to pay the ransom. It stated:

“In line with advice from cybercrime experts, Latitude strongly believes that paying a ransom will be detrimental to our customers and cause harm to the broader community by encouraging further criminal attacks.”

Per the advice given by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the country’s primary cybersecurity agency, victims of ransomware attacks are advised against paying a ransom. This is because there is no guarantee that they will return the encrypted information, as they could sell it online. 

Although the ACSC advises against paying ransoms, no legal prohibition prevents companies from doing so. However, the recent ransomware attack on Latitude has sparked calls from various members of the Australian tech industry to implement new regulations prohibiting such payments.

Australia Contemplates Ban on Crypto Ransom Payments

Clare O’Neil, Australia’s Cyber Security Minister, is currently reviewing the possibility of outlawing ransom payments in the country. This decision was prompted by a recommendation made by a cybersecurity strategy review led by Andy Penn, the former CEO of Telstra. 

Wayne Tufek, the director of CyberRisk, suggests that a legal ban on ransom payments would deter cybercriminals, as they would not expect to receive significant sums of money. 

Similarly, Andrew Truswell, the director of Biztech Lawyers, a technology law firm, also advocates for introducing legislation restricting ransom payments.

The recent review of the country’s cybersecurity strategy in Australia is just one example of the efforts to enhance cybersecurity measures. The potential law to prohibit ransom payments is another step that is being considered to deter cybercriminals from carrying out crypto attacks. This would be a significant step in addressing the problem of ransomware attacks, which have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.

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