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Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull calls for free, open and secure internet

International norms of behaviour should prohibit states from conducting cyber intellectual property theft, says Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for a free, open and secure internet, in a speech at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

“Every aspect of our lives has been transformed by the digital world of the internet. Our global economy, the pace of its growth, is supercharged by technology,” he said.

For this reason, Turnbull said it is essential for internet governance to be independent of individual governments, but at the same time it must ensure that cyber space is not a “lawless domain”.

“Australia, the United States and others will work together internationally to promote norms of behaviour that are consistent with a free, open and secure internet,” he said.

According to Turnbull, these norms should prohibit any states from knowingly conducting or supporting cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for commercial advantage.

This approach, he said, can provide a basis for putting pressure on adversaries and openly imposing costs on malicious actors.

Turnbull said it is important to increase international efforts to counter the spread of propaganda which incites extremist violence, which he planned to discuss further with government officials during his visit to the US.

The Australian prime minister said he plans to discuss with US president Barack Obama international efforts to counter the use of technology by IS.

Read more about IS use of technology

Turnbull said this is an element of the campaign against IS that needs “considerable improvement” because of the group’s “sophisticated and agile” use of technology and social media.

“It was clear to me, from my recent visit, that the Iraqi government and other anti-ISIL forces are not reacting quickly enough to contradict ISIL’s online messages, which have been used both to recruit new fighters and demoralise those who oppose them,” he said, pledging Australian assistance and adding that cyber space demands reactions “as rapid as the kinetic battlefield”.

Turbull said Australia is working with partners in south-east Asia to improve the “effectiveness of our counter narrative online”, and he was pleased to see “heightened co-operation” in the US between the government and the private sector telcos, software developers, and social media platforms on this issue.

Report brands Australia 'vulnerable'

In January 2016, White House, US intelligence and law enforcement officials met executives of top US technology firms to discuss ways of countering terrorist and extremist groups online.

The Australian prime minister’s statements in the US, however, coincide with a report by the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS), that claims Australia is not ready for cyber war or even a "medium-intensity war" that would include a sophisticated attack in cyber space.

Read more about cyber war

The report warns that Australia is "badly lagging" behind overseas counterparts, such as China and the US; that Australian defence weapons systems are "vulnerable"; and that the government “lacks commitment” to military cyber safety, reported ABC News.

The report calls for a "rapid catch-up in Australian capabilities for military security in the information age", warning that Australia should not rely on the support of the US and its other Five Eyes alliance partners when it comes to cyber warfare.

"The reliance by middle powers such as Australia on the United States for extended deterrence may not have as much impact in cyber space as for kinetic operations," the report said.

A separate study, also released by the ACCS, has warned the Australia’s military needs to do more to ensure its current weapons systems can withstand a cyber attack.

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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