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AUSTRAC works with businesses to target ransomware and criminal use of digital currencies

AUSTRAC has released two new financial crime guides to help businesses stop ransomware attack payments and the criminal abuse of digital currencies.

Cyber-enabled crime is an increasing threat to Australians. According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), 500 ransomware attacks were reported in the 2020-21 financial year, an increase of nearly 15 per cent from the previous year.

Digital currencies are increasing in value and acceptance, with Australians rapidly adopting this new technology. As the digital currency market continues to grow globally, criminals are increasingly using digital currencies to commit a range of serious crimes.

AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose said businesses must understand how to distinguish between criminal activity and customers using digital currencies for legitimate purposes, and the importance of reporting suspicious activity to AUSTRAC.

“Financial service providers need to be alert to the signs of criminal use of digital currencies, including their use in ransomware attacks.”

The guides contain practical information and indicators to help businesses identify and report if a payment could be related to ransomware attacks, or someone could be using digital currencies to commit serious crimes such as money laundering, scams, or terrorism financing.

Blockchain Australia CEO Steve Vallas said ”The use of digital currencies for criminal purposes has no place in our sector. Open dialogue, pro-active guidance and strong relationships between Government and industry are necessary to ensure businesses can identify and report behaviour that puts Australians at risk of harm.

The development of resources, such as this guide, help ensure greater awareness of the risks associated with the sector are not an impediment to innovation and economic opportunity presented by this technology.”

Financial services businesses should use the information in these guides, and their own monitoring systems, to help them spot potential illicit use and report suspicious activity to AUSTRAC.

About ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that tries to infect a victim’s computer and encrypt files or otherwise make the computer unusable. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom payment, usually in digital currency, to unlock or decrypt the victim’s files. Paying a ransom does not guarantee the victim’s files will be recovered, and may lead to them becoming targeted again in future.

Are you a victim of a scam or ransomware attack?

The Scamwatch website provides information about the various types of scams and ways to protect yourself. If you have been the victim of a scam, you can also report it at scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam

The ACSC offers information for individuals and businesses on how to keep your information safe and your devices secure. If you have been the victim of a ransomware attack or another cyber threat visit the ACSC for help and advice on what do to at cyber.gov.au/acsc/report

Visit cyber.gov.au for more information.

Media contact:

Media enquiries: media@austrac.gov.au
Phone: 02 9950 0488