In a wide ranging speech yesterday on national security at the Australian National University, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has set out the government’s plans for an Australian Cyber Security Centre (ASCC). She said it would be “a world-class facility combining existing cyber security capabilities across the Attorney-General’s Department, Defence, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission in a single location.”
The ASCC will be based in Canberra. It will most likely combine a number of existing IT security activities such as the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). The government has already committed $1.46 billion out to 2020 to strengthen its networks – that funding will now be brought into the cybersecurity strategy. The government has also established the position of Cyber Policy Coordinator within the PM’s department.
“The centre will provide Australia with an expanded and more agile response capability to deal with all cyber issues — be they related to government or industry,” said Ms Gillard. “It will also create a hub for greater collaboration with the private sector, state and territory governments and international partners to combat the full breadth of cyber threats.” Many in the private sector have been pushing for the establishment of such a centre. The most vocal recent call has come from Huawei, keen to boost its local security credentials after being banned from the NBN as a security risk because of its connections to the Chinese Government.
Ms Gillard’s announcement is part of a broader National Security Strategy, which she described as “an open statement to the Australian community, our business sector and to domestic and international partners. Our plans and intentions are clear for all to see. The strategy identifies our national security objectives and surveys our national security outlook. It sets out what we judge to be the key risks to our security and describes the policies, institutions and capabilities – the key pillars – which protect us.”
The intention is to better coordinate all aspects of Australia’s security. “So, in pursuit of partnerships, my message to our national security community is: if you see a silo, dig it up. Not just because a silo mentality constrains thinking but it also risks wasting resources.”
Ms Gillard said malicious cyber activity will likely be with us for many decades to come, “so we must be prepared for a long, persistent fight. In this digital era we also face the new and growing threat from state and non-state actors of malicious cyber activity which poses such dangers to government, to business and to individuals.
“As we roll out the National Broadband Network, we are deploying a more sophisticated focus on cyber security. Australia is an attractive target for a range of malicious cyber actors, from politically-motivated hackers and criminal networks to nation-states.”
It is hard to be too critical of the government’s cybersecurity strategy. It’s a Good Thing – isn’t it? The more cynical amongst us might say it’s just more window dressing. Surely not!