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Australia calls for interventionist approach in new cyber agenda

The Australian government is forming a cyber defence network comprising security agencies and private sector partners to support a more interventionist approach towards cyber security

Australia is setting a new national cyber agenda, starting with a cyber defence network comprising law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as private sector partners, to fend off cyber attacks that fall through the cracks.

Speaking at the annual Technology in Government conference in Canberra, Angus Taylor, minister for law enforcement and cyber security, said although Australia has the capability to stop many of the denial-of-service, malware and phishing attacks directed at the government, it is not stopping every attack.

“As Australia’s cyber security maturity grows and evolves, we must adopt a posture of moving towards zero,” he said. “Zero successful attacks, zero mistakes and zero negative impact.”

Taylor said the cyber defence network will focus on blocking and targeting threats, developing a framework for strong attribution and response to cyber attacks, as well as sharing threat data, among other areas.

In singling out the importance of threat blocking, Taylor said there have been too many attacks from known sources that have not been shut down. “And when I say shutting down we are mostly talking about blocking their traffic,” he said, adding that he was not referring to an internet content filter but about blocking known malicious domains.

To block cyber threats successfully, Taylor said the government will work with private sector partners such as telcos, cloud and software suppliers, and datacentre providers more effectively than before.

“Between us we see much of the activity and many of the threats,” he said. “It is my intention to develop this model within the government, as an exemplar, and then roll it out to our key partners. We must be able to come to our partners with a plan, with resources and a set of priorities that we can build on.”

Implementing threat blocking

To effectively implement threat blocking, Taylor called for collaboration between defence, law enforcement, government agencies and the private sector to draw up a known target list and a set of priorities that best meet the particular capabilities of each party.

“Law enforcement targets the criminality, defence conducts national security, telcos actively block threats and everyone works to raise the default security posture of their customers.

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“Because that should be end goal of this activity – we can and we should be seeking to provide a level of protection for the public and business that we have never provided before.”

At the conference, Taylor also called for Australia to take on a more interventionist rather than isolationist approach towards cyber security, noting that organisations can no longer hide behind firewalls and gateways “in some kind of glorious isolation and hope the threat will pass”.

“We must build a system that is active, interventionist and collaborative,” he said.

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