Australia might struggle to survive a cyber-attack of the type recently experienced by Estonia and must increase preparations to deal with online threats, according to Dr. Paul Twomey, CEO and president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Twomey said that lack of co-ordination among government agencies and failure to involve the private sector in cyber-security preparations should be addressed in short order given that the Estonian incident demonstrates that such attacks are possible.
"Plans must recognise that the vast majority of computing resources in Australia are held by the private sector," Twomey told a conference in the Hunter Valley on Sunday.
He therefore called for government and industry to collaborate to ready Australia for cyber-attacks.
"Co-operation between key agencies has improved and is under review," he said. But the likelihood of private sector computing resources being both a target for attacks and a pool of resources helpful in responses means engagement should broaden to ensure Australia can mount an effective response.
"If Australia had a cyber attack,could we respond as well as London did after the 2005 bombings," he asked, citing the swift restoration of order and instiling of public confidence that the streets were again safe as a benchmark response to terror.
In a wide-ranging speech, Twomey said security and IPv6 are important considerations for the future, along with increased availability of broadband.
"In Korea they now define broadband as allowing the download of a movie in under three minutes," he said. Australia must catch up to that definition and start to develop policy for what to do with broadband, rather than just debating how it gets built.
The urgency of that debate, he said, is broadband's potential to revolutionise many processes.
Dr. Twomey envisioned systems of remote sensors which, for example, detect water levels in real time and therefore let governmetns make decisions based on last week's data instead of what he called "19th century bureaucratic" processes that today hamper decision making at all levels.
The move to IPv6 will be key to enabling such networks and such changes, he said, as its provision of "340 trillion, trillion, trillion" IP addresses vastly outstrips IPv4's 4.2 billion addresses.
Even the mighty new namespace, however, may be tested by some of the plans Twomey has encountered.
"I have spoken to car makers that plan to place 10 or 15 IP-addressed devices in each car," he says. "The future will see a machine-to-machine internet with billions of connections."