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Tuesday, 14 July 2020 10:47

Cyber bureaucracy comes up with another chicken little report

Cyber bureaucracy comes up with another chicken little report Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Australia's cyber bureaucracy appears to have been hard at work during the lockdown and has come up with what it calls a Digital Trust Report, the ultimate example of tripe about the cyber security industry, one that offers statistics galore, but with no explanation of how they have been calculated or what use they are.

Neither is there any exposition as to what has driven the collection and massaging of this data. Do people have nothing better to do with their time?

Exactly why a report that claims X number of jobs could be lost by a week-long cyber-attack has been released at all is questionable.

Here's one of the many meaningless statistics: "A four-week digital disruption could cost the economy $30 billion, the equivalent of around 1.5% of GDP and an estimated direct loss of 163,000 jobs. This starts to significantly increase when loss of trust in digital infrastructure and data integrity is considered."

So you will probably have many people shivering as they reach out to their keyboards, fearful that they may unleash a cyber demon.

How were those figures arrived at? The data modelling is said to have been based on Synergy's Advanced Modelling Group, whatever that is. There is no mention of the methodology at all, leaving one with the impression that this is just the latest use of a common tactic: use an impressive sounding name and pull data out of thin air. It works every time and what's more the agcncy that generates the data gets multiple commissions at increase rates next time. After all, it's only public money that is being paid out.

It all seems calculated to play into the bid by many others — read the Federal Government and the Australian Strategioc Policy Institute for starters — to hype up the cyber threat and scare the bejesus out of the whole population.

That would make governing the country and passing even more onerous laws than are already on the books very easy. And that appears to be the end game.

chicken little

Chicken little tactics are a tool frequently used by the cyber bureaucracy. Image by SanduStefan from Pixabay

The chief executive of the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network — aka AustCyber — Michelle Price says the issuing of the report is both critical and deliberate.

Price is known for her unintelligible statements when she waxes voluble about the cybers. Here is one gem which she uttered when talking about the encryption law: "There is a whole set of circumstances multiplied by the fact that conversations are emerging and sensitive technologies have been running rampant globally.”

Here's one that I just cooked up: "Cyber security aims to orchestrate extensible initiatives and syndicate magnetic systems in order to leverage enterprise relationships and end up aiming to disrupt bricks-and-clicks architectures." You can do it too: just go here, generate some BS phrase and add a few linking words.

This statement was made along with the release of the report: “This report shows that not only are key sections of Australia’s economy undergoing a step-change because of the transition to a digital environment, but that Australia’s economic future is founded in large part on the security of this digital step-change going forward."

There are numerous cyber security experts (genuine ones) who have theorised, based on available evidence, that many countries have infiltrated strategic systems in other countries considered enemies and implanted malware that can be triggered if needed. In the documentary Zero Days, it is stated that NitroZeus. a more virulent attack weapon than Stuxnet, has been implanted in Iran's infrastructure by the US. But it will never be used.

There have been credible reports that the US has placed software in Russian systems too.

These same experts always add that the malware is highly unlikely to be triggered because it would cause an actual physical war. The placing of malware is something like the tactic of mutually assured destruction that was prevalent during the Cold War. So this hype about cyber attacks and cyber wars should be kept where its deserves to be kept.

The sad thing about the Trust report is that it has been endorsed by people like John Paitaridis, a man I once considered to have some integrity. But then he is now chief executive of CyberCX, an organisation where his partner is former Australian cyber security adviser, Alastair MacGibbon, and he is probably touting for business as his colleague often does.

More meaningless statistics tell one that digital activity in Australia’s economy now contributes $426 billion to the Australian economy, up from the estimates of $315 billion made by Data61 and AlphaBeta in 2018. It also generates $1 trillion (the magic figure) in gross economic output and equates to 1 in 6 jobs in the national economy.

AlphaBeta, by the way, is also a prolific generator of meaningless reports.

Why do we need these statistics? Why do we need to pay public money to people to generate these statistics? They have no relevance and only serve to provide highly-paid jobs to many people who are intent on generating fluff and candy floss. When will this waste of public money end?

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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