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Australian Cyber Security Centre deemed new government hub

Based in Canberra, industry, state and territory partners will collaborate with government agencies.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that the new Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) will be established in Canberra and draw on the skills of the nation’s best cyber security experts.

The ACSC, due to be operational by late 2013, is intended as a new hub for security professionals from the Defence Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Attorney-General’s Department’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).

Cyber security funding welcomed by industry

“It will work closely with critical infrastructure sectors and key industry partners to protect our nation’s most valuable networks and systems,” Gillard said in a statement.

“The Centre will also provide advice and support to develop preventative strategies to counter cyber threats.”

According to Gillard, there were more than 400 cyber incidents against government systems requiring a significant response by the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) during 2011-12.

In addition, 5.4 million Australians fell victim to cyber crime with an estimated cost to the economy of $1.65 billion during 2012.

In response to the National Security Strategy (PDF) announcement, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam said the notion that online security threats are the new terrorism has already generated what he deemed an “expensive overkill” in cyber security measures.

“The government has touted a series of troubling measures including the proposed retention of the electronic communications data of all Australians for a period of two years. What's next?”

Ludlam added that he was concerned by the implications of greater collaboration between government and the private sector on online matters.

"The prime minister glosses over Australia's legislative response to the crimes of 9/11 as though it was a resounding success.

“The Howard-Ruddock Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 was extreme, damaged civil liberties and undermined our justice system. The tripling of security budgets the Prime Minister cited has entailed the expanded apparatus seeking new ways to justify its huge and growing money pot.”

However, security industry commentators were more positive about the proposed Centre.

Curtin University department of computing professor Mihai Lazarescu said that the creation of the ACSC was a good idea because of the ever growing threat from cyber attacks.

“In my opinion, we are still well behind in awareness and vastly behind the US and Europe, in terms of the resources invested in dealing with cyber security training and research,” he said in a statement.

According to Lazarescu, the Australian government should take a cue from security events such as one he recently attended in Washington DC in the United States.

“There was a high number of participants from government organisation and private companies who attended as part of their company policy,” he said.

“This is in contrast with Australia where cyber security is often completely ignored and the prevailing view is that everything will somehow still be fine.”

IBRS Australia advisor James Turner said the ACSC was an important step in the maturing of Australia and recognition that the Internet is a complex place.

“Creating a single centre with pooled resources, shared intelligence and presumably shared budget has awesome possibilities,” he said.

“However, there is a huge trap in thinking that a big pot of money will make the ACSC a guaranteed success.”

According to Turner, the Centre must have an outsider appointed directly by Julia Gillard who will have direct access to the prime minister’s office and be given a clear mandate.

“If the agencies involved in providing resources to the ACSC are left to their devices, aversion to political risk, lack of political will and empire building will obliterate any chance of success,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

More about: ASIO, Attorney-General, Australian Federal Police, CERT, Computer Emergency Response Team, Curtin University, Federal Police, IBRS, Scott
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