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New cyber policy to harden defences against our 'fastest growing threat'

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
New cyber policy to harden defences against our 'fastest growing threat'

The Albanese government’s cyber security policy aims to make Australian citizens, businesses and government agencies harder targets as they face what minister Clare O'Neil describes as “the fastest growing threat that we face as a nation”.

The policy, to be released on Wednesday by O'Neil, who is Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Cyber Security, is also designed to enable victims to bounce back faster from attacks that can’t be prevented.

A modest $586.9 million has been announced for the “action plan”, which runs to 2030. This is on top of the commitment to $2.3 billion for existing initiatives out to 2030.

Of the extra money, the largest slice is $290.8 million for support for small and medium-sized businesses, building public awareness, fighting cyber crime, breaking the ransomware business model, and strengthening the security of Australians’ identities.

Some $143.6 million will be invested in strengthening the defences of critical infrastructure and improving government cyber security.

Among the initiatives on critical infrastructure, telecommunication providers would be aligned to the same standards as other critical infrastructure entities by moving the security regulation of the sector from the Telecommunications Act to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act. The policy says this is “commensurate with the criticality and risk profile of the sector”.

There will also be funding for establishing consumer standards for smart devices and software; building a threat sharing platform for the health sector; professionalising the cyber workforce and accelerating the cyber industry, and investing in regional co-operation and leadership in cyber governance forums internationally.

Read more: Australia finally has a dedicated minister for cyber security. Here's why her job is so important[1]

The government wants Australia to be “a world leader” in cyber security by 2030.

The policy sets three time “horizons”. In 2023-25, the foundations will be strengthened. addressing critical gaps and building better protections.

Read more: Politics with Michelle Grattan: Industry minister Ed Husic on the artificial intelligence revolution[2]

In 2026-28, the cyber industry would be further scaled up and a diverse cyber workforce would be grown. In 2029-30, “ We will advance the global frontier of cyber security. We will lead the development of emerging cyber technologies.”

O'Neil says in a press release: “Australia is a wealthy country and a fast adopter of new technologies, which makes us an attractive target for cyber criminals. Millions of Australians have had their data stolen and released online in the past year.

"Cyber also presents major opportunities for Australia – the global cyber industry is growing rapidly, and it is here to stay.”

Delivering the cyber strategy would require close collaboration between government and industry, O'Neil said.

Darren Goldie, who was recently appointed by O'Neil as National Cyber Security Coordinator, won’t be around for the policy release. He has been recalled to the Defence Department, in relation to a workforce complaint.

Read more

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