Federal police and organised crime investigators will be empowered to kick down the digital door of criminals hiding in the dark web under a $1.7 billion government cyber security strategy.
The proposed law change will allow the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to identify individuals and their networks engaging in serious criminal internet activity.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $1.66 billion in spending represented the largest government financial commitment to cyber security.
It would also involve bolstering the cyber security of small and medium sized businesses and universities, and helping families become more cyber aware.
“The 2020 strategy means that cyber security is a fundamental part of everyday life, so Australians can reap the benefits of the internet and the digital economy safely, and with confidence,” Mr Morrison said.
“We will protect our vital infrastructure and services from cyber attacks. We will support businesses to protect themselves so they can succeed in the digital economy.
“We will track criminals in the darkest corners of the internet to protect our families and children.”
Currently the AFP and the ACIC can only collect communications in relation to an investigation of a particular person or device, connected with a specific offence, under warrant.
But the dark web and encrypted communications apps make identifying suspects extremely difficult.
The new laws to be put to federal Parliament would give the AFP and ACIC easier access to the computers used by criminals.
The plan will also provide $66 million towards a study of vulnerabilities in Australia’s major critical infrastructure and $67 million to improve collaboration between cyber security centres.
Cyber threats have risen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Social media, networking and message apps can pose security and privacy risks if used without care. Cybercriminals harvest data to steal your identity, commit fraud and damage your reputation. For tips to secure social accounts:https://t.co/X1YAKe23OI #ozcyber #cybersecurity pic.twitter.com/ClI5tKPhRd
— Australian Cyber Security Centre (@CyberGovAU) July 29, 2020
In the first half of 2020, the Australian Cyber Security Centre identified and disrupted dozens of COVID-19 themed campaigns designed to distribute malicious software or harvest personal and financial information.
It is estimated that cyber incidents targeting small, medium and large businesses cost the economy up to $29 billion a year, with more businesses choosing to go online to sell their goods and services during the pandemic period.
In the past 12 months, the ACSC responded to 2166 cyber security incidents, but the real figure is believed to be much higher.