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Sporadic Ransomware Growth Worries Aussie Cybersecurity Minister

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Tim Watts, Australia’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Cybersecurity, has come out to criticize the country’s government for its weak showing in response to what he described as a “ransomware epidemic” that befell the nation last year.

In an article published earlier this week, Watts called for more proactive responses to the seeming boom of ransomware attacks against both private and public institutions across several industries, as he anticipated that prolonged lukewarm nature could exacerbate things.

Proactive Laws Needed or Things Could Get Worse

New Zealand-based cybersecurity company Emsisoft has estimated that there were 2,874 ransomware attacks targeted at both private and public agencies across Australia in 2019, leading to about $1.08 billion in losses to the country and its economy.

In his piece, Watts pointed out some of the most severe ransomware cases that hit the country last year, including and especially the shutdown of a Victorian government regional health network that led to the delay of multiple surgeries. Pointing to the fact that things could get much worse this year, he highlighted that late last month, Toll, a transport company based out of Melbourne, suffered a ransomware attack that saw it lose control of over 1,000 of its servers.

The hack forced the logistics company to implement some internal control measures, but to this day, the firm hasn’t seemed to recover fully. Watts went on to chide the government, claiming that the parliament hasn’t addressed the issue even though it has continued to grow in prominence over the past two years.

There’s been no public health-style campaign. No minister has faced the media, flanked by cybersecurity experts. No minster has been sounding the alarm internally about the poor cyber resilience of government networks that have been revealed in a series of audits going back five years,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has shown a severe lack of leadership in addressing the problem.

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He also pointed out that the Morrison administration had closed the ministerial position that was tasked with ensuring effective cybersecurity across the nation. He explained that the abolition of this role left a severe gap, calling for that decision to be reversed for the good of the country.

“Cybersecurity is too complex and too important for it not to be somebody’s day job,” he asserted. The Aussie government has also been heavily criticized by members in the cryptocurrency space as well, due to the implementation of taxation policies that some parties see as being unfair.

Last week, Dr. Jemma Green, the co-founder and executive chairman of blockchain energy startup Power Ledger, appeared at a hearing with the Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology. There, she condemned the country’s tax policies, which classify the proceeds of Initial Coin offerings (ICOs) as income following legacy tax guidelines. She explained that the policy adversely affects ICOs and blockchain startups in the country, as it stifles their growth.

“Many countries…are changing it to put them on capital accounts, which is moving the taxing point to when proceeds are used to build a platform that generates income… Australia is not an attractive proposition to undertake one of these ICOs,” she said.

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