Labor will be reviewing former prime minister Scott Morrison’s $1.7 billion, 10-year cyber security strategy.
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As a top priority, Home Affairs Minister and Minister for Cyber Security Clare O’Neil has ordered her department to "recast the cyber security strategy" rushed out during the COVID-19 pandemic by the former prime minister in mid-2020.
According to The Australian, Minister O’Neil outlined that the new strategy will be designed to focus on building closer links with Quad partners, the US, Japan and India, to accelerate the shift from reliance on China for critical technologies, amid concerns about Beijing's global supply chain dominance.
"It will be grounded in sovereign capability, with a plan for the future workforce and growth of the cyber security sector, including Australian cyber SMEs.
"It will build resiliency, with real engagement and industry alliances to deal with cyber shocks in an assured, not anxious way," Minister O’Neil said.
The Morrison government's $9.9 billion package announced in the March budget for the Australian Signals Directorate and the ACSC was aimed at responding to rising cyber attacks emanating from China, Russia, eastern Europe, Iran and North Korea.
The Albanese government is considering on focusing on rapidly growing the cyber workforce through new apprenticeships and reskilling Australians, with the tech sector reporting severe labour skills shortages and ASD losing staff to the private sector.
As security agencies monitor the deteriorating geo-strategic environment, the new strategy is set to involve industry-wide consultation.
According to Minister O’Neil, the cyber strategy would look ahead to "include the role of critical technologies, our partnerships through the Quad and international norms and standards."
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Chinese military drills off Taiwan, there has been a significant uptick in malicious cyber activity with officials reporting cyber attacks hitting local networks.
In the last financial year, the ACSC received more than 67,500 cyber crime reports, which equates to one incident every eight minutes, from governments, large companies, critical infrastructure operators, small businesses, families and individuals.
There has also been an uptick in severity of cyber attacks, with 50 per cent of all security incidents categorised as "significant". Essential service providers and nationally significant sites have been increasingly targeted by malicious cyber actors representing a 15 per cent increase, with 25 per cent of all reported incidents involving critical infrastructure companies, including those in the health, care and food distribution sectors.
In August 2020, former PM Scott Morrison released his cyber security strategy, which was focused on curbing attacks from state-based actors that were launching mass attacks on Australia's critical infrastructure operators and government agencies.
Aimed at "offensive and defensive" tactics, the 2020 cyber security strategy was designed to safeguard from nation state threats and state-sponsored actors seeking to compromise networks to obtain economic, policy, legal, defence and security information "for their advantage".
The Albanese government is expected to build on measures in the 2020 strategy, including a greater focus on educating children in cyber security across all school ages and improving pathways for young Australians to enter the cyber workforce.
Based on Labor’s election policies, the new cyber security strategy will also focus on tougher penalties for cyber criminals and protecting Australians from scams and online fraud. A UK-style national anti-scam centre is also set to be established to bolster national defences by bringing together security agencies, banks, telecommunications providers and consumer advocates.
The Albanese government is considering stronger penalties for online fraudsters and those engaging in misleading conduct and deceptive practices. More funding and support for Australians to retrieve stolen identification quicker is also in the pipeline and tougher industry codes for service providers to define clear responsibilities for protecting consumers and businesses online.
Reskilling mature-aged workers is also on the cards, with the government expected to boost cyber security education and training to facilitate tech career transitions.
"It will be truly strategic in how it contributes to Australia's economic growth and as part of our national security posture, including securing supply chains," Minister O’Neil said.
[Related: Defence launches supercomputing capability]