Following the federal government’s announcement of the establishment of the new National Office for Cyber Security, the Executive Director of the Cybersecurity and Data Science Institute at Charles Sturt University Professor Ganna Pogrebna, together with her colleague in the Charles Sturt School of Computing, Mathematics and Engineering Associate Professor Rafiqul Islam, shine a light on the cyber security landscape in 2023 and what the government should consider in order to strengthen Australians’ online security.
The new National Office for Cyber Security
Cybersecurity has become an increasingly important issue in today's digital age. As we rely more on technology, we also become more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Governments around the world are taking steps to address this issue and Australia is no exception. While some concerns have been raised about the government's approach, there are several positive steps being taken to improve cybersecurity in Australia.
The establishment of the National Office for Cyber Security is a welcome development. Led by a cybersecurity coordinator within the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, this new office will bring together experts from various agencies to coordinate efforts and improve cybersecurity across the country.
While some have questioned why this office is necessary given existing cybersecurity units within Home Affairs, it is important to remember that cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field and requires a dedicated focus to stay ahead of potential threats, along with ongoing adaptation and improvement.
While there have been concerns raised about the removal of the previous cybersecurity coordinator position within Home Affairs, it is important to note that the new position is focused on improving coordination and collaboration across agencies. This is a positive step forward in addressing the complex and multifaceted nature of cybersecurity.
The national cyber security strategy
The government's discussion paper on the cybersecurity strategy includes suggestions for expanding the definition of critical infrastructure to include customer data and systems. While some have raised concerns about this proposal, it is important to note that protecting customer data is essential for ensuring the overall security of the critical infrastructure. Additionally, the government's focus on enhancing cybersecurity resilience for critical infrastructure is an important step forward in protecting Australia's digital infrastructure from potential attacks.
The government's recognition of the need to enforce existing cybersecurity laws is a positive development, however, it is not enough to simply have laws in place. They must be enforced to be effective. This requires ongoing investment in cybersecurity resources and training for law enforcement officials. By prioritising the enforcement of existing laws, the government is taking a proactive approach to protecting Australians from cyber threats.
Cyber security for SMEs
The government's focus on providing resources to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is a positive step forward. As the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP has noted, SMEs are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks and often lack the resources to adequately protect themselves. By providing resources and support to SMEs, the government is helping to strengthen the overall cybersecurity of the country.
Inclusivity of marginalised Australians
As Australia continues to develop its cybersecurity strategy, it is crucial to ensure that it is inclusive of all communities across the country, including rural and First Nations communities. These groups are often overlooked in discussions surrounding cybersecurity, despite being at risk of cyberattacks and lacking the necessary resources to protect themselves.
It is particularly important to listen to the perspectives and experiences of these communities to create a more comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that addresses their unique challenges and needs. First Nations communities have a deep understanding of the relationship between humans, nature and technology, and incorporating their ethical principles into the cybersecurity strategy can lead to a more sustainable and equitable approach. For many years, they argued for the need to consider not only human-centric security but country-centric security and it is time we hear their voices.
Similarly, rural communities face different challenges when it comes to cybersecurity, such as limited internet access and resources. By listening to their experiences and concerns, policymakers can identify specific areas that require attention and ensure that the strategy is tailored to their needs.
Inclusivity in cybersecurity strategy is essential for building trust and collaboration between policymakers and communities. It is not enough to assume that a one-size-fits-all approach will work and taking the time to listen to diverse perspectives can lead to a more effective and equitable strategy.
The Charles Sturt Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Futures Institute can support governmental strategy with our unique understanding of rural and First Nations issues as we are in constant dialogue with the traditional custodians of the land across all our campuses.
We also understand the challenges small companies and rural communities face as owners and caretakers of much of the critical infrastructure in regions having to operate without much support.
A step in the right direction
While there are certainly areas where improvements can be made, the Australian government's focus on cybersecurity is a positive development.
By establishing the National Office for Cyber Security, enhancing coordination and collaboration across agencies, expanding the definition of critical infrastructure, prioritising the enforcement of existing laws and providing resources to rural and regional communities, First Nations, and SMEs, the government can take a proactive and game-changing approach to protect Australians from cyber threats.
As technology continues to advance and cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, ongoing investment and adaptation in cybersecurity measures will be necessary to ensure the continued security of Australia's digital infrastructure. However, to ensure that the new initiative is a game-changer, we need to ensure that the initiative is inclusive and beneficial to communities outside urban areas, such as those in rural and regional communities, which often miss out on governmental support.
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