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Government announces team to ‘hack the hackers’ after Medibank cyber attack

The “smartest and toughest” cybersecurity experts in Australia have been tasked with hunting down hackers in an overhaul of the nation’s law enforcement methods.
The federal government today announced a new partnership between the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Signals Directorate.

The team of 100 officers between the two agencies will seek to “hack the hackers”, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said.

A hack has exposed private details of Medibank customers.
The government’s announcement follows a hack which has exposed the private details of Medibank customers. (AP)

“The criminals we are up against have adapted their ways, and so have we,” she said.

“This is the formalisation of a partnership, a standing body within the Australian government which will day in, day out, hunt down the scumbags who are responsible for these malicious crimes against innocent people.”

The changes come after serious data breaches at Optus and Medibank.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said a bill will be before the Senate soon which will increase the maximum penalties for companies who are subject to serious data breaches.

“The AFP will be working with all international partners, that includes Interpol, and includes calling on all countries to assist in the elimination of this type of cybercrime,” Dreyfus said.

“No country should stand by and not assist any other country that is asking for help.”

The AFP says Russian cybercriminals are behind the Medibank hack.
The AFP says Russian cybercriminals are behind the Medibank hack. (Pavlo Gonchar via Getty Images)

“Even amongst ransomware groups, it is considered beyond the pale to do what happened here,” O’Neil said.

“I don’t think any leader of any country around the world surely would condone this activity.”

In a statement issued overnight, the Russian embassy in Canberra said the media announcement was made before they were told.

The Russian embassy in Canberra said the AFP’s media announcement was made before they were told. (Supplied)

“We encourage the AFP to duly get in touch with the respective Russian law enforcement agencies,” the embassy statement read.

“Fighting cybercrime that adversely affects people’s lives and damages businesses demands a cooperative, non-politicised and responsible approach from all members of the world community.”

Dreyfus was asked if the government was considering expelling Russian diplomats.

“All options remain under consideration,” he said.

“Our preference is to maintain diplomatic channels but diplomatic profiles must always be consistent with our national interest.

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