Cyber militia to fight cybercrime

The rise of ransomware attacks has prompted one security expert to call on the Government to invest in a ‘cyber militia’, which would consist of cyber-savvy civilians who could help fight cybercrime.

A recent attack on the University of Calgary in Canada, in which the university had to hand over A$26,745 to hackers who encrypted its data and held it to ransom, has instigated the push for a ‘cyber militia’ to help protect our online interests.

Institutions such as universities are vulnerable and represent prime targets because of the large volume of important data they hold.

According to the Australian Centre for Cyber Security’s Professor Greg Austin: “Universities are a principal target for cyber attackers because of the important intellectual property that they contain in their systems. This attack on the University of Calgary shows that all major institutions, hospitals, businesses, universities … they’re all susceptible to dangerous and debilitating cyber-attacks of one kind of another.”

“We do have cyber capability in the Australian Defence Force right now, and it’s very good,” said Professor Austin. “But there’s a question of what do we need in addition to that, that crosses over into the civil sector for important tasks like critical infrastructure protection or for fighting cybercrime.”

“The advantage of having some sort of new militia-type arrangement is that you can draw on the skills that exist in the broader public, in the workforce, without necessarily having them in uniform full time, so you can draw on them when there’s a cyber emergency of some kind,” he added.

A model such as this already exists in Estonia, with its ‘Cyber Defence League’ that consists of IT specialists working in the civil sector who can be called upon to help out in case of extreme cyber-attacks.

Professor Austin believes the cost involved in setting up a similar cyber militia in Australia would be around $50 million each year.

“The Government has just issued a very important new Cyber Security Strategy and a Defence White Paper,” said Professor Austin. “They’ve allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for 1700 new posts in total, in uniform and in the civilian Defence Department.”

“We now need to decide how we’re going to spend that money and what the reserve component of our defence forces will look like,” he said.

What do you think of this idea? Would a cyber militia make you feel safer when surfing through cyber-space? Do you think it wise to give money to people who, on the one hand, may be able to protect our online interests, but on the other hand, have the ability to commit these same crimes? How would the Government vet such cyber militia?


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