Govt's ransomware action plan gets a lukewarm welcome

October 14, 2021 at 00:11

The Federal Government's Ransomware Action Plan has received a lukewarm welcome from security professionals, with one calling for an increased focus on prevention and adoption of advanced cyber security measures.

H. Daniel Elbaum, chairman and joint chief executive of VeroGuard, said: "Whilst the recognition of the cyber security problem in the plan is welcome, an immediate increased focus on preventing the crimes is needed and adoption of enhanced cyber security referred to by the World Economic Forum embraced."

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews announced the plan on Wednesday, saying that when it took effect, businesses that had an annual turnover of $10 million or more would have to report ransomware attacks.

She said the government would also introduce new criminal offences and tougher penalties. But Andrews gave no indication as to when the plan would come into force.

Elbaum said: "It makes absolutely no sense to continue doing the same thing and expect a different result. For example, a key recommendation by the Australian Cyber Security Centre to prevent ransomware includes turning on multi-factor authentication, but they also acknowledge that not all MFA are equal.

"Breaches of software-based 2FA solutions are becoming common, yet significantly ‘enhanced MFA cyber security’ solutions are already available in the market that happen to be developed, produced and run in Australia.”

Elbaum said the government could be doing a lot more to enhance cyber security and protect businesses and citizens online.

He called for the implementation of measures "that would have immediate and material impact on the problem, such as mandating strong MFA rather than any MFA, integrating strong MFA and digital identity into government systems rather than vulnerable applications and biometric-based tools".

"I would like to add that a focus on sovereign solutions will also mean better control over our critical infrastructure, economic outcomes and development of high value jobs in the digital economy," he added.

Scott McKinnel, ANZ country manager at security outfit Tenable, said: "Ransomware isn't just a financial threat, but an urgent national security risk that threatens schools, hospitals, businesses, and governments across the board.

"Cyber attacks — including ransomware — are big money makers, so ultimately we need to do everything in our power to make it more difficult and less lucrative for cyber criminals. For this reason, we welcome the government's action plan.

"We believe that greater sanctions and an increase in government and industry co-operation can play a vital role in keeping Australia safe, and we look forward to more detail being released on the plan.

"Having said that, businesses can't rely on the government alone to protect them.

"It's equally important for businesses to take steps to minimise threats including fixing unpatched vulnerabilities, implementing strong security controls for remote desktop protocol, and ensuring endpoint security is up-to-date - especially in remote environments."