Three of the Gillard Government’s heaviest-hitting ministers have teamed up to announce this morning that their respective portfolio departments will work together to develop a major new whitepaper to map out the nation’s response to cybersecurity issues which they say continue to build in importance.
In a statement issued this morning, Attorney-General Robert McClelland (pictured, above centre), Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the document — developed over the next year and to be released in the first half of 2012 — would be a “comprehensive blueprint” to help Australians connect to the Internet with confidence.
“The cyber threat to Australia is real, evolving and a growing test to our national security establishment,” Smith said. “It comes from a wide range of sources, and from adversaries possessing a broad range of skills. Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and targeted. They are no longer confined to random acts of opportunism.”
McLelland said the document would examine a broad range of areas, ranging from consumer protection, cyber-safety, cyber-crime, cyber-security and cyber-defence. It will build on the Government’s existing 2009 Cyber-Security Safety Strategy and the recent establishment of a number of government organisations such as the Cyber Security Operations Centre, CERT Australia.
The development of the paper will be led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with the Government to commence extensive public consultations from next month via a public discussion paper.
Over his tenure in office over the past several years, McLelland in particular has appeared to be concerned with the cyber-security issue; making regular announcements of new projects in the area, as well as attempting to unify the Government’s response to the issue internally, and Australia’s approach with applicable international laws and standards.
In addition, a number of very public attacks appear to have been carried out on both Government and enterprise technology systems and architecture over the past several years.
For example, in late March this year, The Daily Telegraph reported that at least 10 parliamentary computers, including those belonging to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith, were suspected of being hacked, with government sources linking the attacks to foreign spy agencies. In addition, the loose-knit confederation of internet activists who organise under the banner “Anonymous” appears to have several times targeted Federal Government websites and other communications systems in protest against Labor’s mandatory internet filtering policy.
However, with many of the claimed attacks, it remains relatively unclear to what extent they took place or did damage. For example, mining giants like Woodside Petroleum have recently complained against cyber-attacks on their systems from international players; but without providing any technical information about what precisely the attacks consisted of. It was a similar case with the attacks on Gillard’s PCs.
Image credit: Office of the Attorney-General