AusCERT unfazed by new $8.8m rival

The director of Australia's existing Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) this week said a rival government group that received funding in the budget was unlikely to impact its operations.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The director of Australia's existing Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) this week said a rival government group that received funding in the budget was unlikely to impact its operations.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced in this year's budget that $8.8 million in funding would be provided to bring together the nation's existing computer emergency response arrangements under a new national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).

AusCERT, a not-for-profit organisation based at the University of Queensland, has long proclaimed the title of Australia's national CERT. However, while it has been a key source of security threat information, its primary audience has been paying subscribers, largely from the government and financial sectors.

AusCERT director Nick Tate told ZDNet.com.au that it was in discussions with the Attorney-General's Department about how many national services it could provide the government under a service level agreement.

"The government will run the CERT itself, but we will provide the services that the national CERT intends to do," said Tate.

Besides AusCERT's services officially being recognised by the government not much else is expected to change for the organisation, according to Tate. "AusCERT is going to continue doing what it has done before to other government departments as well as the Attorney-General's Department. We're just providing services for a national CERT service," he said.

Security on the NBN
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday noted the threat posed by infected PCs to critical infrastructure and government networks, and acknowledged the reality of distributed denial-of-service attacks. He said that consumer information security was a "key line of defence" in protecting infrastructure and government networks.

"The disruption caused by these attacks have the potential to affect Australia as a whole," he said.

Conroy also acknowledged the threats posed by wiring the nation under the government's $43 billion National Broadband Network.

"The reliability of the supporting broadband infrastructure will be paramount to the success of smart grid innovations. The same will be true for smart infrastructure and a whole range of industrial applications that will rely on the constant connection of monitors and controls: bridges to monitor load conditions and degradation; buildings equipped with remote lighting control, mining machinery operated from distant control centres," said Conroy.

The comments come a week after the government allocated up to $100 million in the 2009 Federal Budget to assist the development of smart grid technology to create a "smarter and more efficient energy network". Conroy noted the opportunities and risks to SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) sensors, which increasingly rely on IP networks and are used to monitor resources under critical infrastructure management.

"SCADA practitioners will be aware of the types of opportunities available in this environment, as well as the challenges we face," said Conroy. "Reliance of critical infrastructure — aviation, water supply, banking and finance — on digital technologies makes Australia vulnerable to these threats."

One of the key issues Conroy flagged for the successful deployment of so-called smart technologies would be confidence, which the government plans to tackle via education — both for security professionals and for consumers. He added that Australia's e-security capabilities were one of the government's top 10 national security priorities.

"Confidence is a key factor in the take up of new services and will be essential. E-security and law enforcement capabilities are high on the government's agenda," he said.

Liam Tung travelled to the AusCERT 2009 conference in Queensland as a guest of AusCERT.

Editorial standards