Budget 2017: DTA to establish AU$10.7m cybersecurity office

The federal government has set aside AU$10.7 million to establish a cybersecurity office under the DTA in direct response to the 2016 Census debacle.

The Australian government has announced that it will provide AU$10.7 million over four years to establish the Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO).

The cybersecurity office, which will be established by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), will work with government agencies to manage cyber and digital risks and vulnerabilities to "provide strengthened central governance and assurance for cybersecurity and broader project vulnerability across government".

The government's Budget 2017-18 said the office will be given AU$2.8 million in 2017-18, AU$2.7 million in 2018-19, AU$2.6 million in 2019-20, and AU$2.6 million in 2020-21.

According to the government, the office was created as a result of the findings and recommendations handed down by the Senate Economics References Committee in November as a result of its inquiry into the Census debacle last year.

In what was labelled as a confluence of failure, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) experienced a series of denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, suffered a hardware router failure, and baulked at a false positive report of data being exfiltrated, resulting in the Census website being shut down and citizens unable to complete their online submissions in August 2016.

Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Alastair MacGibbon also conducted a review on the events that led up to the eCensus form being temporarily taken down, recommending that the government "embrace cybersecurity as a core platform for digital transformation".

The federal government has been moving towards a greater focus on cybersecurity: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull initially pledged AU$30 million through to 2019-20 in December 2015 as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda to establish the Cyber Security Growth Centre; launched the nation's cybersecurity strategy a year ago; and published the AU$400 million provided in the Defence White Paper for cyber activities.

The government announced in November that it would be launching the AU$4.5 million Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence in the aim of improving Australia's cybersecurity through education and research, with Turnbull and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Dan Tehan receiving cyber defence education at the Australian Signals Directorate.

The government in February also pledged AU$1.9 million to universities delivering specialised cybersecurity training in a bid to combat the skills shortage in cyber-related fields, calling those skills "fundamental to the success and growth of Australia's digital economy", and last month enhanced its cybersecurity cooperation with China.

The two countries have agreed not to conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage, and have established a mechanism for the discussion of cybersecurity and cybercrime.

In relation to cybersecurity risks, the government also pledged AU$166.6 million over four years for veterans' services, part of which will go towards redeveloping the Department of Veterans' Affairs' (DVA) ICT systems, including improvements to cybersecurity.

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