Australia struggles to hold cyber criminals to account

Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Australia is struggling to hold cyber criminals accountable, with the government admitting the mechanisms are not in place to adequately tackle nefarious actors.

Asked whether Australia was powerless to go after cyber culprits, Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said she didn't agree.

But she admitted, "we probably don't have the mechanisms in place to do it just at this stage".

"Cyber crime is a relatively new form of criminal activity and I think what we're seeing is countries around the world start to build and develop responses that will actually help us bring perpetrators to account," she told ABC radio on Tuesday. 

"It's not like a physical individual in our country who we can hunt down on the street, this does have some different elements to the crime."

The minister said the Australian Signals Directorate and Australian Federal Police had the capabilities to disarm cyber criminals but would not outline the specific measures.

"They use online techniques to be able to find people who might seek to do Australia harm and they can debilitate them in various ways," she said.  

Ms O'Neil said she had seen a shift in corporate Australia which has taken the threat more seriously after millions of people had their data exposed when Optus was hacked a year ago.

The minister said board members of major companies have woken up to how serious the problem was.

But she said laws were in place to make sure directors abide by their duties towards their customers.

"If they don't meet those duties, then yes, they will be punished," she said.

Ms O'Neil unveiled parts of Australia's new cyber strategy on Monday, which charts a pathway forward to boosting the knowledge and capabilities of companies to stop and respond to cyber attacks.

The strategy will create six "shields" around the nation to protect businesses, organisations and everyday Australians.