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Cyber Security in Australia: December 2018 Round Up


The year is over, but cyber news didn’t slow down for the holidays. In December’s wrap-up, the Government has rushed through its encryption bill before Parliament let out for the year, a bitcoin bomb-threat has arrived on our shores, and a data breach has hit the Victorian public service.

Controversial Encryption Bill Passed by the Government

The Assistance and Access Bill was passed after the Labor Party backed down on some of its requested changes. The bill had previously received widespread derision from major tech companies and many experts in the field.

One of the key reasons behind its unpopularity was the bill’s ambiguity, which critics said could enable law enforcement agencies to force tech companies to build backdoors into their platforms. It is feared that if this were to take place, it would undermine every user’s security, potentially increasing crime, as well as setting a dangerous global precedent.

The Labor Party had initially opposed the bill in its original form. It arranged a number of key amendments, but insisted that these did not go far enough towards fixing the bill. It was only in the year’s final parliamentary sitting that the party decided to let the bill pass as is.

Labor leader, Bill Shorten, stated that the laws were passed in order to help protect the country over the Christmas and New Year period.

“We are not going to sacrifice the security of Australians.”

Bomb Threat Bitcoin Scam Reaches Australia

Australian law enforcement officials are investigating a series of bomb threats that turned up in the inboxes of a number of individuals. The emails stated that a bomb would go off unless the recipient paid a ransom in bitcoin.

The threatening emails reached Australia after previously turning up in countries such as the United States, Canada and New Zealand. The Australian Cyber Security Centre told Reutersthat they did not believe the emails were a legitimate threat.

“Given the widespread nature of these malicious emails, we have reason to believe this to be a scam.”

Despite this, law enforcement agencies are treating the situation with caution and investigating the emails thoroughly.

Data Breach Hits Victorian Public Servants

The details of 30,000 Victorian Government employees have been stolen in one of the latest wide-scale data breaches. Data such as work email addresses, work phone numbers and job titles, was accessed by an unauthorized party on the December 22.

At this stage, further details on who was responsible or how the data was stolen have not been released. It does not appear that any important personal information was accessed by the culprit, however the work-related details could give hackers the knowledge they need to launch highly-targeted spearphishing attacks.

According to itnews, the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) is following the issue closely, because it takes “any breach of data security extremely seriously.” There is an ongoing investigation into the breach.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian Enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.


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