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Australia wants to ‘hack back’

Nov 16 – According to the Washington Post, Australia’s Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil has promised to “hack the hackers,” following two massive cyber attacks that negatively affected companies and consumers.

Australia’s Taskforce

On November 12th, Minister O’Neil announced the development of a taskforce that will identify and stop the cyber criminals who catalyzed recent data breaches. The taskforce will be a first-of-its-kind, permanent and joint collaboration between the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Federal Police.

It will consist of roughly 100 persons, who are expected to use the same cyber weapons and tactics as cyber criminals, according to media reports. Further details on the taskforce’s operations have not yet been released.

Expert analysis

According to Glenn Gerstell, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency, Australia’s recent string of high-profile hacks is comparable to what the United States experienced from late 2020 to mid-2021.

“In some ways, this is a repeat of the kind of shock that the United States went through,” said Gerstell.  He also expressed that the ‘hack back’ approach may reflect frustrations with traditional cyber security tools, law enforcement abilities and diplomatic tools.

Cyber offensive strategies

In the past, Australia has used cyber offensive strategies. Examples include operations designed to disrupt ISIS and most recently, efforts to disable scammers’ infrastructure and access to stolen data.

But actively seeking to neutralize offshore cyber criminal gangs could lead to retaliation, experts worry. Improving Australia’s overall cyber security prevention and defense frameworks should be top priorities. Although it may not be the flashiest, most popular solution, cyber threat prevention works and is arguably the best solution in the long-term.

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