A cybercrime is reported in Australia every six minutes.
While this represents a surge in cybersecurity threats, it is just the tip of the iceberg, a government intelligence agency says.
Australia is a particularly big target for many syndicates and cybercriminals because it is a wealthy country with a large population of internet users.
The annual Cyber Threat Report by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) found the agency had received 94,000 reports of cybercrimes over the past year, 23 per cent more than the year before.
More than 2000 victims suffered an average financial loss of $39,000 from business email compromises.
But the statistics only reflect information from those who reported cybercrimes and the true picture is much worse.
“Cyber criminals constantly evolve their operations against Australian organisations and are fuelled by a global industry of access, brokers and extortionists,” ASD director-general Rachel Noble said.
Millions of Australians have fallen victim to data breaches over the past 18 months after Optus, Medibank and Dymocks customers had data stolen and leaked.
But many do not report it because they believe they are beyond help.
Digital transgressions also weighed heavily on businesses, with the cost of cybercrimes increasing 14 per cent and resulting in almost $100,000 in losses for medium-sized establishments.
The federal government reported the most cybersecurity incidents, followed by state and local counterparts – though this likely reflects the close relationship between governments and the ASD.
The agency also recorded five particularly serious cyber threat incidents – two which targeted national security or national security organisations and three aimed at critical infrastructure, or federal or share government services – up from three the previous financial year.
Australia is also on the receiving end of attacks from state actors, with China remaining the most common culprit due to its broad capabilities, followed by Russia and, to a lesser extent, Iran.
“Some state actors are willing to use cyber capabilities to destabilise and disrupt systems and infrastructure,” Ms Noble said.
In May, a Chinese cyber actor was able to blend their activity in with normal traffic in a technique called “living off the land”.
This allowed the infiltrators to get into networks across US critical infrastructure, which has bred concerns these same techniques could be applied to Australian systems.
Defence Minister Richard Marles says Australia’s relationship with China is complex.
“They’re our largest trading partner, so it’s right to be investing in that relationship,” he told ABC on Wednesday.
“But China has been a source of security anxiety for our country and we prepare for that as well.”
The AUKUS partnership between Britain, America and Australia is likely to be targeted by state actors looking to steal intellectual property for its own militaries.
But the ASD believes the vast majority of cybercrimes could be avoided if Australians and organisations regularly backed up data, updated applications, patched operating systems, restricted administrative privileges on devices and implemented multi-factor login authentication.
(Australian Associated Press)