ASIO Chief says Australia under constant cyber attack

In his first public speech, the new Director General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), David Irvine, has said electronic attacks on Australia are “constant” and the organisation is working to fight back.

Australia experiences “constant attempts by cyber means to steal the nation's secrets, as well as information vital to the effective operation of critical national industries and infrastructure, not to mention commercial intelligence,” according to David Irvine, the new Director General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Irvine added that “Counter-espionage and foreign interference have taken on renewed importance in recent years – in both their more 'traditional' forms and in new ways which harness technology. The explosion of electronic communications technology has expanded infinitely the opportunities for the covert acquisition of information by both state-sponsored and non-state actors. ‘Beware of cyber-Geeks bearing gifts’, should now be our maxim as conduct of the business of government and industry is increasingly transferred to the digital medium. Today, we see constant attempts by cyber means to steal the nation's secrets, as well as information vital to the effective operation of critical national industries and infrastructure, not to mention commercial intelligence.”

Speaking to the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers in Sydney yesterday, Irvine also said that technology is creating a major security headache.

“… the ease with which proscribed products, ideas, information and technology, not to mention the explosion in the movement of people themselves, now speed across national boundaries, has created an entirely new operating environment for the security intelligence business.”

Irvine went on to say that ASIO is training its staff in the intelligence techniques needed to do their job in this new world, and added that “We need to keep pace with technological change particularly in the Age of the Internet and Broadband.”

The Director General added that the organisation’s own IT is being challenged by today’s security landscape.

“We have needed to devise ways of effectively handling the vast quantity of data which flows into the Organisation. The National Security Hotline alone has referred 61,000 calls to ASIO, of which almost 17,000 have required further investigation, since its inception in 2002,” he said.  

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