The Weekly Cybers #2
Australia sanctions a Russian hacker, the ACSC offers cybersecurity advice for business leaders, and more.
Despite today being a public holiday, I’m sticking with my schedule. Hey, I’m only two weeks in! So I’m glad there’s a nice chunky story to lead with, on a topic I actually know something about.
Australian government sanctions Russian hacker
Russian hacker Aleksandr Ermakov has been sanctioned over his role in the Medibank Private data breach of 2022. Here he is in a photo supplied by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier this week.
As ABC News reports, “It is the first time the government has used its cyber sanctions framework, which was legislated in 2021 to apply financial punishments to people involved in significant cyber attacks.”
These documents always have such catchy names. Behold, the Autonomous Sanctions (Designated Persons and Entities and Declared Persons — Thematic Sanctions) Amendment (No. 1) Instrument 2024! I’ve got all their albums.
As the Guardian reported:
The head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre at the Australian Signals Directorate, Abigail Bradshaw, said: “We know a lot about Mr Ermakov through our analysis ... [Anonymity] is a selling quality, and so naming [him] and identifying [him] with the confidence that we have from our technical analysis will, most certainly, do harm to Mr Ermakov’s cyber business.”
The US and UK have joined Australia in the sanctions, making Mr Ermakov even more unattractive to his colleagues.
Indeed, any financial transactions with a sanctioned individual are crimes, so this now provides an international legal framework for rolling up the network.
It’s worth noting that Australia has been one of the leading nations in using international law — or at least name-and-shame — against hackers. Back in 2018, for example, Australia was part of a coordinated diplomatic effort to blame Russia for the NotPetya cyber attacks against Ukraine.
As an aside, I also note that back in 2020, Australia and the US called out cyber attacks on hospitals and medical research facilities during COVID-19 pandemic because they breached international law. I assume that in the intervening years the actual wartime shelling and bombing of hospitals has stopped being a war crime? You know who I’m talking about.
Cyber tips from the Australian Cyber Security Centre
Last week the ACSC published its Practical cyber security tips for business leaders. As usual it’s a solid list of suggestions based on actual data.
My personal advice is for businesses to work with this and their IT people as a draft checklist. Not everything will be needed for every business. If you run a cafe, you probably don’t need a separate cafe-related mobile phone. But everyone can be a target for low-level criminals, so if in doubt follow the advice.
There was a time when I’d now say: “If you’d like me to help your business through this, let me know”. But I’m not sure whether I want to do that any more.
Also in the news
- Calls to ban police access to digital ID data.
- Yes, the Senate secretariat has started publishing the submissions to the inquiry on the Digital ID Bill 2023. If someone wants to pay me to go through them, I’m happy to do so.
- OAIC braces for impact of cyber info sharing.
- ChatGPT is coming to Australian schools. Here’s what you need to know.
- Adobe seals two-year, $30m contract extension for myGov.
- On Thursday I did the weekly “Big Tech” spot on ABC Radio’s RN Drive. You can listen at Big Tech: How Artificial Intelligence is interfering in the US election. If you want to read more, check out New Hampshire investigating fake Biden robocall meant to discourage voters ahead of primary and Most Top News Sites Block AI Bots; Right-Wing Media Welcomes Them.
Parliament is still on summer break. It’s due to resume on Tuesday 6 February 2024, just a week and a half away, so next Friday we’ll start to get some idea of what might be on the agenda.
It’s also now the Australia Day long weekend, so expect some media drops to prepare journalists for the narrative to come. This Monday 29 January there will be plenty of spin for us to enjoy.
Meanwhile, the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training has some more public hearings on the use of generative AI in the education system, in Pymble on Monday and Ultimo on Tuesday.
Any questions or comments? Just reply to this email. I’d love to heard from you. Cheers.
The Weekly Cybers is a personal look at what the Australian government has been saying and doing in the digital and cyber realms, on various adjacent topics, and whatever else interests me, Stilgherrian, published every Friday afternoon (nearly).
If I’ve missed anything, or if there’s any specific items you’d like me to follow, please let me know.
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