Discussion Papers

National Cyber Resilience: Is Australia ready for a computer COVID-19?

May 15, 2020

Labor has today released a new Policy Discussion Paper, “National Cyber Resilience: Is Australia Prepared for a Computer Covid-19?” and convened a stakeholder roundtable to canvas policy interventions that the Government should be considering now to ensure that Australia is ready for cyber incidents in the future.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has given new focus to Australia’s national resilience in the face of global crises.

Global cyber incidents – otherwise known as cyber-attacks – are a real threat to Australia’s national resilience.

As the Wannacry and Notpetya worms have shown, self-perpetuating malware can spread like a biological virus, doing enormous damage to connected systems and the societies and economies that rely on them.

Unfortunately, Australia is ill-prepared and late last year, the former head of ASIO, David Irvine, warned that:

“We need... to have much more effort both by the government and the private sector and individuals into developing what I’ll call national cyber resilience to a far greater level than we have now”.

Australia has some of the best cyber security capabilities in the world, but our cyber resilience is highly variable.

While the Australian Signals Directorate is regarded as a world leader, six years of ANAO reviews show that 40 per cent of Commonwealth entities continue to fail to implement basic cyber security measures.

Our banks can draw on large teams of highly skilled cyber security professionals, but time-constrained and resource-poor small and medium businesses are on their own and increasingly the targets of cyber criminals.

“Building National Cyber Resilience requires a new approach to cyber security policy in Australia. We need policies that bring cyber security to the community and build cyber resilience throughout the country,” said Tim Watts MP, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security.

“Just as public health experts recognise the collective benefits of improving the overall health of a population, so too should cyber security experts recognise the collective benefits of lifting the baseline cyber security capability throughout a nation.”

Labor’s discussion paper examines Australia’s current vulnerabilities and examines new ideas that could lift the baseline of Australia’s cyber security including:

·    An Active Cyber Defence program modelled on that deployed by the United Kingdom National Cyber Security Centre — a framework of automated, scalable interventions to tackle the most common cyber threats and make the Australian internet safer for everyone to use.
·    A Cyber Civilian Corps – an organization that engages volunteers in public interest cyber security tasks in their own community like education and outreach, testing and assessment as well as providing additional surge capacity in moments of crisis.

“In the wake of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic we need to start building Australia’s National Cyber Resilience today,” said Senator Kristina Keneally, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs.

“We cannot afford to wait until another global crisis hits before we take action.”