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Australian government bolsters IT security in budget boost

The country’s Digital Transformation Agency has been given a shot in the arm to guard public sector IT systems against cyber attacks

The Australian government has committed an extra A$10.6m (US$7.8m) to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to ensure public sector IT systems are developed with cyber security as a priority.

To be invested over four years, the additional funding is on top of the A$230m the government is already pouring into Australia’s cyber security strategy.

The new investment was prompted by recommendations from a review of the government’s online census system, which failed in 2016 due to botched attempts to rein in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on census night.

The role of the DTA has been subsequently expanded to provide oversight of major government IT projects, beyond spurring innovation across the government. The agency has also been tasked to ensure cyber security remains front and centre for all government IT projects, according to Angus Taylor, assistant minister for cities and digital transformation.

The move to expand the DTA’s role was welcomed by those in cyber security circles.

“As major security breaches in Australia continue to dominate headlines, it has become critical that the government take the threats to business and the country’s key infrastructure installations seriously,” said Simon Howe, ANZ director of sales at LogRhythm.

“The current political turmoil taking place globally means cyber attackers are now well-equipped to target the country’s critical infrastructure, including power stations, water treatment facilities and communication hubs. Robust security initiatives need to be developed and implemented urgently, and the government’s interest and investment in this space is to be applauded,” he said.

Read more about government IT in Australia

To spur adoption of MyHealth, the government has allocated A$374m over two years to provide each Australian with an electronic health record from May 2018 – unless an individual actively opts out. Given the value of data stored in health records, cyber security will be a key priority requiring DTA’s scrutiny.

In total, the budget delivered $70.1m over four years to the DTA to fund its expanded remit. This includes A$15.2m to help fund the next stage of the Govpass, an opt-in digital identity service for Australians to access e-government services.

Australian Information Industry Association CEO Rob Fitzpatrick welcomed the budget, noting the government will be better positioned to deliver efficient and quality services to Australians “through its investments in data analytics, technology platforms, digital identity, cyber security, the expansion of the MyHealth record system and building digital skills across the public service”. 

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