Cyber security incidents have been estimated to cost Australian businesses up to $29 billion per year, threatening Australia’s economic prosperity and national security. In 2016, the Australian Government delivered its Cyber Security Strategy, backed by a $230 million investment to make Australia a safer place to connect online.
Strong progress has been made against the goals set in 2016, such as the establishment of the Australian Cyber Security Centre and formation of Joint Cyber Security Centres across the country. Despite this progress, changes will be required to ensure an effective response to the rapidly changing threat environment.
In its 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, the Australian Government outlines the progress made over the past 4 years, and the key changes that will be required going forward.
What progress has been made?
Since the publication of the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy, significant progress has been made against the key deliverables. Some actions have been completed, whilst others are ongoing or have been subject to an updated approach to increase effectiveness.
Australian Cyber Security Centre
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has been established within the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to be the single point of cyber expertise for the Australian Government. This helps to streamline the Government’s cyber security governance and structures.
The ACSC has also delivered cyber management training across government and industry, and developed specific guidelines on good cyber security practice, e.g. relating to Managed Service Providers.
Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)
CERT Australia’s capacity within the ACSC has been increased to allow for 24/7 incident response to businesses and government.
Enhanced inter-agency cooperation
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) now provides intelligence to the ACSC, allowing for an improved understanding of the cyber threat landscape, top criminal targets, and innovative ways to disrupt cybercrime and related offences such as money laundering.
Boosting cybercrime fighting capacity
Additional AFP police investigators, technical specialists and intelligence analysts have been embedded within the ACSC and in dedicated AFP Cyber Teams. The AFP has also delivered cybercrime training to more than 650 participants from law enforcement, intelligence and cyber security agencies across Australia.
Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
The ASD established a new team responsible for closing the gaps in the knowledge of existing adversary tradecraft and system compromises, as well as identifying trends in cyber threats affecting Australia to inform operations.
ASD also provides the Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents, including the ‘Essential Eight’ mitigation strategies, and is complemented by the Essential Eight Maturity Model.
Furthermore, cyber security has been improved through the ASD’s assessment of vulnerabilities, provision of technical security advice and development of guidance for Government agencies, as well as the implementation of public and private sector cyber security awareness programs, often developed in collaboration with key international partners.
Supporting small businesses
The Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST) has developed a service is designed to assist small businesses in understanding their cyber security maturity.
As part of the Cyber Security Small Business Program launched in December 2018, businesses with 19 or fewer employees can receive a co-funded grant of up to $2,100 to have their cyber security tested by CREST.
Building cyber capacity in the Indo-Pacific
Australia has significantly enhanced cyber capacity in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. Nearly $34 million will be invested to further build on this progress, including Australia’s Cyber Cooperation Program and a cyber security partnership with Papua New Guinea.
Research and Development
Various agencies have been established, or have expanded their capacities, to ensure pioneering research and development in the area of cyber security.
- AustCyber was established in late 2016 as a national cyber security innovation network that pioneers cutting edge cyber security research and innovation.
- CSIRO’s Data61 has boosted its capacity for cyber security research and development of solutions, improving cyber security skills and deepening connections with international partners.
- The Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre has been established to support and enable collaboration and co-development across Australia’s cyber security ecosystem.
Ongoing actions outlined in the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy include:
- Delivering progress updates on the implementation of the Strategy.
- Holding annual cyber security leaders’ meetings.
- Partnering with the private sector to develop innovative approaches to cyber threat information sharing – for example, the establishment of Joint Cyber Security Centres (JCSCs) in capital cities.
- International cooperation to combat malicious cyber activity and shut down ‘safe havens’, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Develop Australia’s cyber security skills through partnerships with government, businesses, education providers and the research community.
A process of continuous iteration
Since the launch of the Cyber Security Strategy in 2016, a number of key action points have been revised to better respond to the cyber threat landscape.
|Action point||Updated approach|
|Sponsor research to better understand the cost of malicious cyber activity to the Australian economy.||This activity was overtaken by a classified review of the threat and vulnerability landscape in Australia.|
|Improve Government agencies’ cyber security through independent assessments, especially for higher risk agencies.||New technology solutions are now being used to improve cyber security at scale, such as automated scanning tools to identify system vulnerabilities. Further assessments of a number of key government agencies have also been conducted, with specific guidance provided.|
Since the launch of Australia’s 2016 Cyber Security Strategy, significant progress has been made in strengthening the nation’s cyber resilience and security. This has required the implementation of innovative and technologically-driven strategies, whilst revising approaches to keep up with the rapid pace of change in cyberspace and emerging threats from malicious cyber actors. A key factor determining the success of the strategy is effective cooperation between government and law enforcement agencies, domestically and internationally, as well as with industry and academia, and in dialogue with the Australian community.