On Saturday, Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security Clare O’Neil announced the formation of a multi-agency task force to combat cyber crime. Called the Joint Standing Operation (JSO), the task force will merge the efforts of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), an agency of the Defense Department.
The announcement comes after the Medibank hack exposed the private health information of 9.7 million Australians earlier this week. The hackers, associated with the Russian ransomware gang REvil, published data from the breach on the dark web this past Wednesday. The hackers sorted the published data into two files: a “good-list” and a “naughty-list.” The “naughty-list” purportedly included the medical information of Australians who had sought treatment for HIV, drug addiction, and unwanted pregnancies.
“I am disgusted by the perpetrators of this criminal act,” stated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday. The Joint Standing Operation represents the government’s commitment to combat cyber crime with a new and more aggressive cyber-policing model.
The JSO will be composed of 100 officers from the AFP and ASD. Its formation formalizes a partnership between the two organizations that began after the Optus hack in September. The JSO will not only investigate cyber crimes, but it will also proactively track and disrupt the activities of international cyber-criminal syndicates, in cooperation with the organizations’ international partners.
“The smartest and toughest people in our country are going to hack the hackers” and “hunt down the scumbags,” stated O’Neil.
A report from the Australian Cyber Security Centre earlier this month stated that cyber crime rose 13 percent in Australia from July 2021 and July 2022.