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Australia Aims to Make Industry More Resilient Against Cyberattacks

FILE - Hands type on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles, Feb. 27, 2013.
FILE - Hands type on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles, Feb. 27, 2013.

The Australian government is asking major banks and other institutions to take part in 'wargaming' exercises to test how they would respond to cyber-attacks. It follows recent mass data theft attacks on several large companies, which compromised the data of millions of Australians.

Australia is preparing for potential cyberattacks on critical services including hospitals, the banking system and the electricity grid.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil Tuesday warned that recent high-profile hacks on the telecommunications and health insurance sectors, which have affected millions of people, "were just the tip of the iceberg".

The government is setting up a series of drills with large organizations to help them respond to security breaches.

Anna Bligh, chief executive of the Australian Banking Association, an industry body, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday that cyber security drills organized by the government will make the sector more resilient.

"How would the whole system cope if one of the very large companies were taken down by a cyber threat?" Bligh asked. "The sort of scale and sophistication of the threat is now moving into something that we haven’t seen before. So, it is a very timely move. This is now potentially a significant threat to the national security of the country."

A major Australian financial services company revealed Tuesday that criminals who stole sensitive customer information last month have demanded a ransom.

The cyberattack on Latitude Financial resulted in the theft of 14 million customer records, including financial statements, driver’s license numbers and passport numbers.

The company said that in line with government policy it would not pay a ransom to prevent the data being leaked or sold online.

The Australian government is considering an updated Cyber Security law that would impose new obligations and standards to protect data across industry and government departments.

However, officials have warned that cyber criminals are becoming more professional, powerful and effective.