​Government should protect Australian businesses from cybercrime: Shorten

The Labor leader has said the Australian government needs to help businesses in the country combat cyber threats, but noted that it cannot do so alone.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said that millions of small and medium-sized businesses in Australia need the federal government to help them stay safe in the digital world.

"They need [help] in the way that's simple enough for them to incorporate it into their business and that they can afford," Shorten said, addressing Parliament on Wednesday morning. "This means having the resources to design cyber defences for products, processes, and people."

The Labor leader also believes "trust and collaboration" should be present in every cybersecurity conversation, and said no government has the reach or resources to act alone to combat threats.

"We must collaborate with the private sector, sharing information and strategies, learning from each other's successes and the failures," Shorten said.

"That is true for our collaboration with international peers, we must seek a new layer of engagement with our old allies and partners, recognising the frameworks and treaties written for a Cold War world need to be updated for an age where people can Google bomb-making instructions and 3D print guns."

Shorten said that while increased connectivity with the world through the internet is one of the defining forces in modern society, it does let others in. He also reiterated the importance of recognising that there is no such thing as an unhackable system or a fool-proof platform.

"We recognise the scale and speed of change in this area means that nothing can stand in stone. In the last two years, there's been more data created than in the entire previous history of the human race," he added.

"We are living in a time when technology and invention is streaking ahead of traditional legal and security frameworks.

"We cannot afford to assume that cybersecurity is a niche issue for textperts, the harmless hobby of the few dedicated followers."

According to Shorten, the face of global conflict has dramatically changed and changed exponentially in recent years. As a result, he said improving Australia's cybersecurity is important in protecting Australia's government and non-government agencies and institutions from attack.

"We've seen large-scale attacks and initiatives carried out around the world, perhaps most noticeably in the United States," he said. "In the past year alone, we've seen Austrade, the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Department of Defence targeted."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled Australia's AU$230 million Cyber Security Strategy in April, which is aimed at defending the nation's cyber networks from organised criminals and state-sponsored attackers, and sits alongside the AU$400 million provided in the Defence White Paper for cyber activities.

Included in Turnbull's strategy is the AU$136 million spent on small business grants to boost security, increase the government's cybercrime intelligence and investigation capabilities, create a threat information-sharing portal, and be able to identify vulnerabilities in government systems.

Additionally, items already catered for under the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda announced in December are AU$38 million to support new business and promote the exporting of security products, the creation of a national cybersecurity innovation network, and a boost to Data 61's cyber program.

A total of AU$13.5 million has also been allocated to establish academic centres of cybersecurity excellence, and to raise awareness of cybersecurity across the country.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced another appointment to the prime minister's cyber defence team, naming Dr Tobias Feakin as Australia's first ambassador for cyber affairs.

Feakin's role will be to support cyber capacity building in the region, advocate against state censorship of the internet, and promote Australia's view that opportunities provided by the internet should be available to all people.

Feakin will join Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan -- who added the role of cyber assistant to his existing roles as the minister for Defence Personnel and the minister for Veterans' Affairs after a post-election Cabinet reshuffle in July -- and also Alastair MacGibbon, Australia's first special adviser to the prime minister on cybersecurity.

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