New report on cyber security

Attorney-General Robert McClelland welcomed the release of a new report on the Australia’s response to the evolving cyber security threat.

The report, Optimising Australia’s Response to the Cyber Challenge, was launched by the Kokoda Foundation at the National Press Club on Friday. It was co-sponsored by the Attorney-General’s Department.

According to the report, cyber security was the “fundamental weakness” in Australia’s national security and it was “poorly understood” by political and business leaders and the general public.

The report’s authors, former Deputy Chief of Air Force John Blackburn and strategic consultant Gary Waters, said Australia’s current response to cyber security was outpaced by the growing threat.
“A broader understanding of the nature, scale and extent of on-line threats to private information is crucial to the ongoing security of this country,” Mr Blackburn said in a statement.

The report also warned that the cyver threat could endanger critical infrastructure such as electricity grids, water storage and distribution, aviation and maritime transport and telecommunications networks.

Responding to the report, Mr McClelland said the Australian Government had made cyber security a “top national security priority” and would continue to invest in cyber security capabilities.

Mr McClelland said the report acknowledged the progress made by the Australian Government in responding to cyber threats, including the implementation of the 2009 Cyber Security Strategy.

“The Cyber Security Strategy is at the heart of the Government’s approach to cyber threats, and recognises the important contribution of all levels of government, business and industry in securing cyberspace,” Mr McClelland said.

As part of the strategy, the Government has introduced a number of programs and initiatives, such as the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Australia), the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) in the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the ‘Stay Smart Online’ website.

However, the Kokoda Foundation report found that despite the implementation of the 2009 Cyber Security strategy, Australia was not keeping pace with the growing cyber threat.

The report made a number of recommendations, including:

  • The assignment of the lead to coordinate cyber-related security issues across government to the Office of the National Security Adviser;
  • Appointing a Minister with oversight responsibility for cyber issues, together with a ministerial committee such as a sub-group of the National Security Committee of Cabinet; 
  • Developing a National Cyber Strategy to provide a 10-year vision of what needs to be achieved in the security and management of cyberspace in Australia; and,
  • Disconnecting the power grid and any control system transporting people, managing gas or petrol production or controlling the flow of water from the wider Internet.

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