Australia to ‘hit the gym’ in cyber exercises

Nationwide cybersecurity exercises will aim to make Australia a hard target for international hackers and prevent debilitating cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced the plan at the Sydney Dialogue on Tuesday, warning Australia could face a dystopian future by 2030 with wide-scale cyber disruptions becoming the norm.

The exercises will be led by the yet-to-be-announced national cyber co-ordinator and will involve entities that provide Australia’s critical infrastructure, including electricity, communications, water and defence.

“Australia is waking up from the cyber slumber, but now we need to hit the gym,” Ms O’Neil said.

With threats from malevolent cyber actors set to increase, the exercises will aim to build “muscle memory” in dealing with previously unknown attacks, such as lock-ups of critical infrastructure or integrity attacks on critical data.

Ms O’Neil said she hoped by putting cyber defences through their paces in practical scenarios, the exercises would help identify areas where more work is needed.

She stressed the need for government agencies to work collaboratively with the private sector to help boost the nation’s cyber resilience, saying the initiative had been raised several times in consultations.

“Critically, it will look at how to work with governments including dealing with the consequences of a crisis that inevitably will not impact just one company but potentially millions of Australians,” she said.

The large-scale hacks of Medibank, Optus and most recently Latitude Financial have heightened community awareness of the risks of cyber attacks.

Last week, Latitude advised that a total of 14 million customer records had been accessed by hackers.

As a result of the three hacks, it was likely that virtually every Australian had either been directly impacted or knew a family member who was affected by a cyber attack, Ms O’Neil said.

The Albanese government in February announced the establishment of a national cyber security office within the Department of Home Affairs to co-ordinate the national response to major cyber attacks.

The government is expected to appoint a national cyber co-ordinator within the coming months.


Jacob Shteyman
(Australian Associated Press)


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