Posted on November 29, 2021 at 3:36 PM
The Australian federal government is planning to amend legislation that will allow telecom operators to block spam messages. According to the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, the new amendment protects Australians from scammers.
“The regulatory amendment we have enacted provides the telecommunications sector with the authority they need to block malicious SMS messages at scale and protect the Australian public from scammers,” Andrews stated.
Amendment to intercept malicious SMS messages
Andrews stated that the government was working with the industry to deal with the new and emerging threats on the Australian community regarding the use of digital platforms for scam activities.
“The Morrison government is committed to collaborating with industry to tackle new and emerging threats to the Australian community, including scams that exploit digital technologies for nefarious ends,” Andrews noted.
These changes will be brought forward with the amendment of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act). Under this act, telcos will have the ability to intercept malicious SMS messages and block them from reaching the Australian public.
The amendment of this legislation is an initiative that has been in consideration for several months. In an appearance at the Senate, the secretary of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, stated that his division had already engaged players in the telecommunications industry. The sector will have the power to block spam and malicious messages.
Telcos will have the power to block content under the TIA Act. One of the leading telcos, Telstra, has already announced plans are underway to ensure it is well-equipped when this legislation comes to pass. According to the CEO of Telstra, the firm was already working on creating a new cyber safety capability that will detect and block scam SMS messages that are sent through its network.
The software in question is currently in the testing phase on the Telstra network. The test will check whether any scam messages sent to the staff on the network will teach the systems to notice the difference between a genuine SMS and a malicious one. The project is among the Cleaner Pipes initiatives launched by Telstra in 2020.
Australia to launch a joint cybercrime unit
According to Andrews, Australia was also working on a joint task force to curb using cyberspaces to defraud Australians. The new Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Center, dubbed the JPC3, will be launched in March next year.
This unit will focus on preventing cybercriminals from sending malicious and defrauding content to Australians. The operations of the JPC3 will be spearheaded by Justine Gough, the assistant commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). His work at the police department will be dedicated to fighting cybercrime.
The AFP stated that this unit would target cybercriminals who target companies for phishing attacks or run scams that lead to loss of money.
The AFP has already been involved in various initiatives seeking to prevent cybercrimes. When announcing this joint task force, the AFP stated that it had prevented the loss of $24 million from Australian superannuation accounts.
The AFP also stated that it ran an operation that successfully shut down a criminal marketplace that sold software used to conduct cybercrimes. The marketplace had software that had more than 500,000 stolen credentials.
The AFP analyzed the 500GB of data retrieved during this operation and contacted 20 superannuation companies that took measures to protect the compromised accounts. The compromised accounts included 35 employer accounts and 681 member accounts.
The AFP also announced that it levied charges against a Sydney man who ran an SMS phishing scam and stole $100,000. The scam targeted banking institutions and telcos, and over 450 victims were targeted in the attack.
The man ran the phishing scam through a fake website and malicious SMS messages. He asked victims to share personal details that were used to defraud them by accessing their bank accounts and creating new bank accounts without the victims’ knowledge. The individual is facing a sentence of up to 26 years if found guilty.
The company worked jointly with financial institutions and Telstra to fund the victims and provided additional security measures to prevent further compromise of the victim’s accounts. The AFP stated that its efforts helped to prevent an additional loss of over $4 million.
The effort of the AFP to battle cybercrime is part of the initiatives by the Ministry of Home Affairs in recent months to protect the Australians. The department has also taken part in other initiatives such as the Critical Infrastructure Bull and the national ransomware action plan. Home Affairs is also working on rules that will safeguard the critical technology supply chain.