Media Release,  15 September 2020

New pilot program to block cyber criminals impersonating Services Australia

Tuesday 15th September 2020: Telstra, in conjunction with the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and Services Australia, is boosting Australia’s cyber resilience through the launch of a new security measure to block malicious text messages from reaching Telstra customers.

The new pilot program will identify and reject illegitimate phishing text messages that are impersonating myGov and Centrelink before they reach Telstra customers.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the ACSC’s unique insights into the tradecraft and motivations of cybercriminals has been a key contribution to this pilot.

“Cyber security is a whole of community effort. This pilot program, which will eventually lead to industry-wide solutions, demonstrates how government and industry can work together to better protect Australians from cyber threats,” Minister Reynolds said.

Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton said protecting all Australians from cybercrime is a key priority of the Morrison Government.

“The Government’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020 contains initiatives to address the scourge of cybercrime. I welcome this pilot as an illustration of what Government and industry can do working together to stop cybercriminals ripping-off innocent Australians,” Minister Dutton said.

Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert said it is more important than ever to protect Services Australia customers who may not be able to recognise a genuine communication from a scam.

“In the 2019-20 financial year, almost 920 Services Australia customers reported scam losses totalling more than $6.4 million—an increase of $500,000 from the previous year, with SMS in the top five methods that scammers used,” Minister Robert said.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said it is more important than ever to protect its customers.

“With so many Australians now working from home as well as relying on Government assistance through Services Australia, it’s vital that we constantly evolve our approach in defending against malicious activity on our networks,” Mr Penn said.

“Cybercriminals continue to target Australians through SMS phishing campaigns by sending them text messages that attempt to redirect them to malicious websites. Being able to stop these scammers in their tracks will go a long way to protecting our customers.

“This work also aligns with Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy and the recommendations from the Industry Advisory Panel, which we look forward to helping implement in conjunction with the Government, business and the community,” Mr Penn said.

Telstra is already supporting this objective through its Cleaner Pipes initiative announced in May and is incorporating the same technology across its own network, to help filter out malicious text messages impersonating Telstra that are being sent to its own customers.

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Media contacts:

Steve Carey (Telstra): +61 413 988 640

Ben Martin (Minister Reynolds’ office): +61 447 219 902

James Larsson (Minister Robert’s office): +61 427 100 431

Media ref number: 100/2020 media@team.telstra.com