Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) is hacking crooks behind Coronavirus-themed attacks

Pierluigi Paganini April 09, 2020

The Australian government will use any means to crack down on cybercriminals exploiting the coronavirus outbreak, including hacking back.

While the number of Coronavirus-themed attacks continues to increase, law enforcement agencies are spending a significant effort to detect and neutralize them.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) announced it will employ its offensive cyber capabilities against threat actors behind COVID19-themed attacks.

The option chosen by the Australian government for cracking down on scammers exploiting the Coronavirus pandemic is raising a debate in the cybersecurity community.

“Cyber criminals that are using the cover of cyber space and international borders to target Australians are not beyond our reach,” Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds declared.

“We are hitting back through the Australian Signals Directorate, who have already successfully disrupted activities from foreign criminals by disabling their infrastructure and blocking their access to stolen information.” she added. “Some of these cyber criminals have even posed as health officials in an attempt to exploit vulnerable Australians, by infecting their computers with malware and stealing their private information.

Minister of Defense Reynolds explained that the ASD intelligence agency already used its offensive capabilities to dismantle infrastructure used by foreign criminals.

In some cases, crooks have even posed as health officials and attempted to spread malware used to steal private information of Australians.

ASD Director-General Rachel Noble PSM believes that crooks are expected to continue targeting Australians using COVID-19 as a lure.

“Our offensive cyber campaign has only just begun and we will continue to strike back at these cyber criminals operating offshore as they attempt to steal money and data from Australians,” Noble said.

Recently the Australian consumer protection agency Australian Competition & Consumer Commission warned of scammers targeting superannuation in COVID-19 crisis.

Scammers are trying to take advantage of the Government’s announcement that people suffering financial difficulties can have partial access to their superannuation from mid-April.

“Scammers are cold-calling people claiming to be from organisations that can help you get early access to your super,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“For most people, outside of their home, superannuation is their greatest asset and you can’t be too careful about protecting it.”

“The Australian Taxation Office is coordinating the early release of super through myGov and there is no need to involve a third party or pay a fee to get access under this scheme.”

“Never follow a hyperlink to reach the myGov website. Instead, you should always type the full name of the website into your browser yourself,” Ms Rickard added.

This isn’t the first time that the ASD announced its intention to hack back attackers, in December 2019 it used offensive capabilities in attacks aimed at Islamic State.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – ASD, Coronavirus)

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