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AFP Commissioner outlines Medibank hacker hunt and impact of sanctions

“Making Australia a hostile environment for criminals is an AFP priority,” according to the Commissioner’s Senate estimates opening statement.

user icon David Hollingworth
Thu, 15 Feb 2024
AFP Commissioner outlines Medibank hacker hunt and impact of sanctions
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The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police used his opening statement before Senate estimates this week to talk up the AFP’s achievements over the last 12 months, particularly its work in investigating the 2022 Medibank hack.

“Under Operation Aquila, a standing joint operation between the AFP and ASD, investigators, technical officers and intelligence officers worked tirelessly with Medibank Private to collect evidence and construct a picture of the criminal activity that impacted Medibank Private’s computer systems,” Commissioner Reece Kershaw said in on 13 February.

“This enabled the AFP and ASD to evaluate and interpret intelligence, which led to the identification of an alleged offender.”


Once the investigators had their target, and working with the government, the AFP prepared a Statement of Case that included the evidence that had been collected alongside the hacker’s identity and the crimes he allegedly committed.

This led to the Australian government declaring its first-ever set of sanctions against the alleged hacker, Aleksandr Ermakov, as well as a travel ban. Authorities in the US and Britain then followed suit.

“Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said the first such coordinated trilateral action with Australia and the United Kingdom underscored our collective resolve to hold these criminals to account,” Commissioner Kershaw said.

“The AFP’s groundwork, with Commonwealth and international agencies, underpins DFAT’s application for the first Australian cyber sanction to be granted.”

Commissioner Kershaw said the investigation is continuing but that the sanction will have an ongoing impact on criminal cyber activity in the country.

“We know that public attribution can destroy the credibility and reputation of cyber criminals,” Commissioner Kershaw said. “It creates distrust and disrupts their ability to operate effectively in the cyber criminal world. In essence, they are seen by other criminals as too risky to deal with.”

“Making Australia a hostile environment for criminals is an AFP priority. We often look to criminally charge and put offenders before the court, however, frustrating, disrupting and being unpredictable to criminals has a proven deterrence effect.

“In fact, we know some criminals have stopped targeting Australia because the cost of doing business here is not worth the risk.”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced the sanctions against Ermakov on 23 January. The sanctions make it a criminal offence to provide any assets to Ermakov or deal with his assets.

This makes it a criminal act to pay a ransom to the hacker as well.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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