Australia’s competition watchdog has teamed up with the business regulator to test automated takedowns of websites hosting phishing and other scams.
The chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, revealed the lawsuit at the Law Council of Australia’s 2022 consumer rights forum on Tuesday.
The lawsuit, which began in late June, focuses on the removal of websites reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The ACCC uses a countermeasures service offered by UK-based Netcraft, which has provided the same service to the UK’s National Cyber Security Center for four years.
The internet service company also claims to perform takedowns for four of the top ten most phished companies.
Cass-Gottlieb said “over 300 malicious websites targeting Australians” have been submitted to Netcraft in the past three weeks, leading to dozens of takedowns.
Many of these websites were “phishing sites posing as Australian businesses and government authorities”, she said.
Other websites related to “pup scams, shoe scams, cryptocurrency investment and tech support scams”.
“Protecting consumers directly by disrupting scam websites at their source is a powerful addition to equipping consumers with knowledge about scams,” Cass-Gottlieb said.
“I am very pleased that the ACCC is leading this work.”
Cass-Gottlieb acknowledged the work of the private sector to “effectively identify and disrupt scams”, but said there was still more to be done.
“We note that industry codes are still being developed in many areas, but in any case, organizations should already take the following steps with regards to preventing phishing scams,” a- she declared.
“Organizations know when they are regularly the target of identity theft by scammers.
“Organizations should actively monitor, warn of, and seek removal of websites impersonating their brand.
“Complaining of trademark or copyright infringement to a website hosting provider is quick and easy to prove compared to, for example, the ACCC requesting the removal of a website for failing to deliver goods after the customer has paid.
“We also expect organizations to monitor their own platforms, services and transactions for scams.”
Cass-Gottlieb also used his opening speech to call out carriers who are not blocking fraudulent call traffic, despite the introduction of the fraudulent call discount code in December 2020.
The code has led to a 50% reduction in reports of fraudulent calls to the ACCC so far in 2022, with new rules to combat SMS scams also introduced last week.
“I note … that some carriers are responsible for a disproportionate amount of fraudulent traffic not being blocked,” she said.
“Scammers will always target the point of least resistance and so it’s important that every operator does their part to ensure that all of our international gateways block known scam and spam traffic.
“We also encourage leaders in the telecommunications industry to share their approaches and successes with others in the industry to help make Australia the toughest target for scammers.”
Last month, the ACCC estimated total scam losses in 2021 at more than $2 billion, investment scams ($701 million) and payment redirection scams ($227 million) being the main contributors.