Australians urged to increase online vigilance amid rising malware threats

Australians are being urged to improve their online security practices amid an alarming rise in the number of cybercriminals attempting to steal personal data using malware.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has reported a notable increase in the use of remote access Trojan (RAT) viruses, which allow criminals to secretly investigate and steal their victims’ data.

RATs, a type of malware, allow attackers to gain unauthorized access to a victim’s device, often remaining undetected while they extract sensitive information.

These sophisticated tools are embedded in various digital media, such as email attachments and video game add-ons or modifications, making them a pervasive threat. Attackers, operating both domestically and internationally, exploit these methods to compromise personal and financial data.

The AFP has observed a marked increase in incidents involving RATs, highlighting their effectiveness in circumventing traditional security measures.

Once a device is infected, the malware can record keystrokes, capture screenshots, and access personal files, allowing criminals to gather a wealth of information. This data can then be used for identity theft, financial fraud or sold on the dark web.

AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Chris Goldsmid noted that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting Australians by employing RATs and other malware.

“These viruses, known as RATs, are cybercriminals’ tools designed to spread and take over a victim’s device, just like a plague,” Goldsmid said.

“This reminds all Australians to practice good cyber hygiene and highlights the importance of keeping software and virus protection up to date.

“Criminals often target vulnerabilities in outdated or unprotected software to take control of a system, making the owner a target for exploitation. »

Goldsmid also mentioned that cybercriminals can develop RATs that evade detection by some antivirus software, potentially evolving into “extreme and malicious” forms of theft.

In April, the AFP accused an Australian of developing and selling a RAT called Firebird on an online hacking forum.

Last year, a Geelong man was sentenced to three years of good behavior after pleading guilty to purchasing an “Orcus” RAT, which infected more than 700 devices.