AUSTRAC unveils guides to tackle ransomware, digital currency criminality

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

The threat of cyber-enabled crime is continuing to grow in stature in Australia. The Australian Cyber Security Centre noted that 500 ransomware attacks were reported in 2020-21 – which was an increase of 15% year-on-year.

Nicole Rose – CEO of AUSTRAC – said that companies 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.

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

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

AUSTRAC highlighted that the development of resources, such as the guides, help ensure greater awareness of the risks associated with the sector ‘are not an impediment to innovation and economic opportunity presented by this technology’.

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.”

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