Telstra has launched its Sydney-based cybersecurity centre, with the telecommunications provider also announcing a new "secure internet initiative".
With the latest security operations centre (SOC) officially open for customers from Thursday, Telstra now has centres live in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra ahead of launching more across the globe, Telstra CEO Andy Penn told ZDNet.
"There will be more [centres] in the next year or two," the chief executive told ZDNet during the Sydney SOC launch on Thursday afternoon.
"The thing to bear in mind, though, is that they're virtual; this centre is virtually connected to the centre in Melbourne, and every future centre that we'll have will be virtually connected as well, plus they'll have 24/7 capabilities.
"So in that sense, these centres once established have the capacity to service thousands of customers and as our business grows -- particularly internationally with our submarine cable network where we have about 400,000 kilometres of submarine cable network where we're doing all the data transmission services for international customers -- we'll build out more centres as that demand requires, but we certainly have plans for a small number of extra centres internationally."
According to Penn, Telstra's position as Australia's largest telecommunications service provider gives it the responsibility and obligation of delivering services that will protect its customers domestically and globally.
"Today, we're announcing a new initiative that will add significantly to our existing capabilities ... it is the creation of a new network of security operations centres," he said.
"These centres support our global network of more than 500 cybersecurity experts, and will uniquely position Telstra to better monitor, detect, and respond to security incidents for all of our customers. The security operations centres will provide enterprise customers with access to our world-class security teams and increase visibility and insight for managing their business cyber risk."
Telstra built the security centres to an Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) T4 standard, with all cables colour coded and physically separated according to what level of intelligence is carried across them, and the centre's entry guarded by a time-sensitive airlock equipped with biometric security including facial recognition, gait recognition, and a retina scanner that can read from up to 10 metres away.
Under the T4 security standard, audio and video cannot be recorded inside the SOCs, and all mobile devices are required to be locked away prior to entering the centre.
The Sydney centre took seven months to build, with Telstra saying it took "an agile approach to both software and facilities". In this regard, Telstra used open-source project Apache Metron, around which it built managed services applications and capabilities in order to remove the cost of developing commercial software, which it said meant more money spent on analysts.
"The future of security is machine intelligence coupled with human expertise," Penn said.
"With the volumes of data we are seeing today driven by technology innovation, it is impossible to see the patterns and trends without machine learning. These new centres and our dynamic security offerings give us exactly this capability."
Available 24/7, the Sydney and Melbourne centres "have the ability to aggregate data in a central point where it can be analysed for hostile intent", Penn explained. The two SOCs are identical, with each housing 14 analysts at all times to support thousands of customers.
If one centre has an outage, services can be immediately switched over to the other, Telstra said.
While Penn would not disclose how much the centre is worth, he said it is "a fair bit bigger" than Optus' AU$7 million centre unveiled last year.
Telstra additionally announced the establishment of a learning and development program to increase knowledge of cybersafety within organisations.
"The security operations centres and the secure internet initiatives reinforce Telstra's commitment to working with the government and industry to create a cybersecure Australia."
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan welcomed the arrival of Telstra's new SOC, saying it demonstrates that as a telco provider, Telstra is "incredibly well placed" for dealing with cybersecurity.
"Cyber risk is there and it's growing -- we're seeing cyber espionage, we're seeing cybercrime, and we're seeing hacktivism," Tehan said during the SOC launch in Sydney, adding that there needs to be a "whole-of-community approach" to dealing with it.
Tehan said the Australian cybersecurity centre's unclassified-level stage one is "nearly ready" to be online, with the entire centre aiming to be fully operational next year.
The government announced in November that it would be launching the AU$4.5 million Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence with the aim of improving Australia's cybersecurity through education and research, with Turnbull and Tehan receiving cyber defence education at the Australian Signals Directorate.
The government in February also pledged AU$1.9 million to universities delivering specialised cybersecurity training in a bid to combat the skills shortage in cyber-related fields.
During the 2017 Federal Budget, the government further pledged AU$10.7 million over four years to establish the Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO) to work with government agencies to manage cyber and digital risks and vulnerabilities to "provide strengthened central governance and assurance for cybersecurity and broader project vulnerability across government".
"We've got deep, deep, deep skills in cyber because of our own need to protect our networks, but also we provide a very significant dynamic service for our enterprise customers, and this is really a significant investment in really building that service for our enterprise customers," Penn told ZDNet.
The chief executive also told ZDNet that Telstra will likely upgrade its existing SOC in Canberra.