Taylor praises Home Affairs for sparking collaboration within government

Despite still pushing the 'stop the bots' approach to cyber defence, Australia's cyber minister didn't touch on the impending 'decryption' legislation.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government last year created a new superministry, combining the functions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Federal Police (AFP), Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Austrac, and the office of transport security, into the Department of Home Affairs.

While the new portfolio is overseen by Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor used his time at the Technology in Government conference in Canberra on Tuesday to tout the creation of the new department as paving the way for government entities to work more "collaboratively".

"There hasn't been a single program, update, threat report, or incident response in my eight months in this job that was handled by one agency acting alone," Taylor said.

"The agencies of the federal government need to be integrated and working together in a way that they never have before, and that's starting to happen."

According to Taylor, such collaboration is occurring thanks to three reforms the Coalition has kicked off, with the first being the creation of Home Affairs, as well as the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy, and the response to the independent intelligence review.

"These initiatives have created a structure that has been tested daily from the analyst level right up to the prime minister," he continued. "Because of the changes that we have made, the government has been able to manage the increasing risk environment in a way that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to."

Taylor said that by combining the areas of government that are focused on cyber -- AFP, ASD, ASIO, ACIC, and Home Affairs -- the impact it can have has been recognised.

"The government's cyber defences start with the newest graduate and stop with the prime minister. they start in the giant mainframes of DHS [the Department of Human Services] and they end in a USB stick that has been used to move files from one place to another," he said.

"Because our cybersecurity is only as strong as the weakest point."

As part of "getting the government's cyber house in order", the minister said he is pushing three main initiatives: Implementing clear standards, expectations, and outcomes for Australia's security agencies, departments, and ministers; developing a "layered and world-leading" infrastructure; and focusing on procurement, hoping to increase -- not decrease -- security as new technology is contracted.

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While Taylor's speech omitted the impending "decryption" legislation, he did use the opportunity to again draw parallels with cybersecurity to the country's practice of stopping asylum seekers from entering Australia.

"As Australia's cybersecurity maturity grows and evolves, we must adopt a posture of moving towards zero: Zero successful attacks, zero mistakes, and zero negative impact," he said.

"Stopping the bots needs to have the same single-minded focus as stopping the boats.

"Because it is the view of the Australian government that hostile cyber activity will only continue to become more prevalent."


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