Australia is ill prepared to protect its citizens from increasing cyber threats.
A new report by the special adviser to the Prime Minister on cyber security, Alastair MacGibbon, says that Australians effectively have a right to worry about cybercrime.
After being commissioned to undertake an investigation into what happened with the ABS breach on Census night, Mr MacGibbon responded with a 91-page report that basically said "Attribution of malicious actors online is difficult and denial of service incidents are hard to trace."
In other words: we’re not entirely sure.
Already wary of sharing personal and financial details online, the Census debacle left many Australians even more sceptical about internet security.
Mr MacGibbon’s report underlines the fact that cyberattacks are becoming more commonplace and are difficult to police and prosecute. Online criminal activities range from countries trying to steal information to gain economic or strategic advantage and cybercriminals stealing people’s financial and personal information, to ideologically-driven ‘hactivism’.
According to Telstra Chief Executive Andy Penn, the scale of cybercrime the company sees each day is “pretty frightening".
Mr Penn said that although increased connectivity can be a positive force, it also makes it easier for online crime, espionage and protest.
This year alone, we’ve seen Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on major websites such as the ABS Census site, Twitter, Airbnb, Amazon, Reddit and The New York Times. And let’s not forget Yahoo! admitting to more than 500 million accounts being hacked in one of the biggest data breaches of all time. Then there are the allegations of Russia hacking Democrat email accounts so it could influence the US Presidential Election.
According to Fairfax Media, in the last financial year, Australia’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Australia) responded to 14,804 cyber security incidents. In the last two years, 65 per cent of Australian organisations experienced some form of cybercrime. Over one in 10 of them reported losses of more than $1 million. Cybercrime is now the main economic crime in Australia.
UNSW's Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS) believes that cyber threats should be treated as a national emergency and that if Australia is to handle current and future threats, we need to hire 8000 cyber security specialists today.
"If the world's No.1 military power and technology power has made that assessment and backed that up with a number of policy decisions in the past year, we should take our understanding from that," said the ACCS’s Professor Greg Austin.
Over 90 per cent of Australians will be online by 2017 and by 2019 it is expected that each household will have an average of 24 devices that access the internet.
Over the next four years, the Government plans to spend around $230 million on its Cyber Security Strategy.
Although this is just a small step towards making Australia ‘cyber safe’, Mr MacGibbon says the Government and businesses need to work together to protect Australians from online threats and to educate them to become more cyber-savvy.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have hit the nail on the head when he said: “The good people should co-operate because the bad people are co-operating”.
Read more at The Age.
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