Australian PM to beef up cybersecurity

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pledged to establish a National Security Science and Innovation Strategy to better protect against cyberattacks.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised to bolster Australia's cyberdefenses to fend off the threat posed by hackers.

Rudd last week kicked off his first National Security Statement by acknowledging, amongst other things, the threat posed to the country by hackers and terrorists' access to "readily available" technology.

"The irony of technology today is that, while on the one hand we are seeking to invest in sophisticated information, intelligence and military technology, on the other, we have to protect ourselves from the extreme use of basic, readily available technology and hardware by terrorist groups," he said.

Rudd, who recently signed up to the Twitter service, also acknowledged the threat to Australia caused by its reliance on computer systems to manage critical infrastructure, which were put to the test last year under the multinational cyberwar exercise, Cyber Storm II.

"We are highly dependent on computer and information technology to drive critical industries such as aviation, electricity and water supply, banking and finance, and telecommunications networks," he said.

"This dependency on information technology makes us potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks," he said. "A number of actors may carry out such attacks ranging from hackers, to commercial entities and foreign states."

The joint nation Cyber Storm exercise conducted last year included participants from the banking sector, telcos, ISPs, defense and government agencies, revealed the difficulties that Australia would face under a serious cyberattack.

Steven Stroud, head of Australia's Cyber Storm effort and director of e-security exercises at the Attorney General's Department, had said in May that when incident response teams were under simulated attack, they became short-sighted.

"An example from the banking sector was a number of, let's say, theoretical customers [who] had their credentials compromised through Internet banking. So the response was to reset the credentials. However, no one dealt with the actual problem, which was that these people all had keyloggers, so resetting credentials was a waste of time," said Stroud.

To help mitigate the threat of cyberattacks, Rudd has promised to establish a National Security Science and Innovation Strategy.

Referring to why the strategy had been established, he said: "As a consequence of rapid advances in technological capability, Australia must remain technologically and scientifically alert, agile and robust so as to anticipate and respond to new and emerging threats arising from the ongoing technology revolution."

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