Australia toughens stance on cybersecurity

The Australian government has launched its first ever National Security Strategy, stating that in a post-September 11 era, risks and challenges are evolving rapidly.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Speaking in Canberra today, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that the new cybersecurity strategy, Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia's National Security, will set out the risks to the nation's security and describe the policies, institutions, and capabilities that are responsible for providing security to the nation.

"Our plans and intentions are clear for all to see," she said in her address.

"I did not want this merely to be a list of risks and challenges, or a statement of doctrine.

"I also wanted clear priorities to direct government activity and resources in a real and concrete way."

The strategy, which builds upon the National Security Statement (PDF) made by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Australian Parliament in 2008, focuses on effective partnerships, regional engagement, and also cybersecurity.

Gillard said that as the National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolled out, the government is taking a more sophisticated approach to cybersecurity as it becomes an "attractive target for a range of malicious cyber actors," including hacktivists and other nation states. Part of its approach will be to increase its involvement with the public sector, with Gillard stating that the government alone cannot protect the online space by itself.

As part of this strategy, Gillard promised that the government will, before the end of the year, announce a new Australian Cyber Security Centre. The new centre concentrates the cybersecurity capabilities of the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Defence (DoD), the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the Australian Crime Commission together under a single roof.

"We want people working together and co-location assists with that," she said.

"It will provide Australia with an expanded and more agile response capability to deal with all cyber issues — be they related to government or industry, crime or security."

Gillard highlighted that the new centre will also help the government collaborate with the private sector.

Although this centre will include departments on the national scale, it will dive deeper down into state and territory governments, presumably involving resources such as state police forces, as well as reach up internationally to other law-enforcement partners.

Gillard also took the opportunity to highlight the existing investment that the government has made into cybersecurity, outlining that it has already committed AU$1.46 billion to secure its networks, and established an office within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the current cyber policy coordinator (also the national security chief information officer). The current cyber policy coordinator is Allan McKinnon, who was appointed in June last year.

The coordinator's role is currently to coordinate cyber policies for the whole of government, providing advice to government on these policies, and to engage and coordinate with international stakeholders when it comes to cyber issues.

The strategy is expected to be published later today.

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