Monday 22nd Oct, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Technology shaping cybersecurity, minister says

Minister for law enforcement and cybersecurity speaks at the AFIF National Conference on 25 May. Credit Ian Ackerman
Minister for law enforcement and cybersecurity speaks at the AFIF National Conference on 25 May. Credit Ian Ackerman

AUSTRALIA’S new Department of Home Affairs is embracing the rise of new technologies but in an incremental fashion, according to federal minister for law enforcement and cybersecurity Angus Taylor.

Speaking to DCN on the sidelines of the recent AFIF national conference in Sydney, Mr Taylor said the focus for new programs such as the “single digital window interface” would be on smaller, incremental gains rather than a grand unveiling.

“The trick for us is to adopt technology the way the private sector is doing it, which is what I call rapid incrementalism; it’s not about these massive IT projects that take forever before you get the first benefit,” he said.

“My very clear guidance has been that we want benefits early rather than late, and we want a well-staged program where we can get quick wins as well as longer term projects that are going to more fundamentally reshape the way we work with industry.”

Mr Taylor said the department would soon be saying more about the single window project, noting that big, long-term IT projects almost invariably fail, whereas incremental projects – where benefits come quickly – are much more likely to succeed.

The recent federal budget has allocated $10.5m to complete a business case for the single window project, which it said would “transform and modernise” Australia’s international trade supply chain.

As new technologies come into use and change the way trade and logistics are carried out, Mr Taylor told DCN the major issue for government is to be a part of that, and not be a “laggard”.

“As technology is moving to the cloud and new technologies such as Blockchain are coming on, it just means that the logistics industry and freight forwarders can do things that they just couldn’t do 10, 15 years ago; and, that means moving faster, having more transparency and having lower costs,” the minister said.

“Of course, if government doesn’t modernise, many of those gains are going to be lost, and that’s why programs like Trusted Trader and Single Trade Window are so crucial because they’re actually about modernising government.”

While helping trade to be faster, easier and safer, there is a darker side to these great technological advances. Cybersecurity is a growing concern, and Australia’s freight infrastructure is a potential target for criminals, hostile governments and terrorists.

“Airports and ports – they’re natural targets because the disruptive impact is high, and that means if you’re a criminal, you’re more likely to be able to extort money, if you’re a hostile government, you’re more likely to disrupt the economy and the country,” Mr Taylor told DCN.

“We have to harden those ports as cyber criminals, hostile governments and terrorists get more sophisticated, then we can fully expect that they will be looking for vulnerabilities in our port IT systems.”

Mr Taylor said banks have a level of cybersecurity sophistication most sectors don’t yet have. He said government was taking a sector-by-sector approach to cybersecurity, modelled to some extent to what has been done in the US, with electricity transmission and air traffic control at the top of the list.

“But, we will be working through sector by sector to look at vulnerabilities, to make sure we as government are doing everything we can to support, and that industry is also doing their bit to make sure we’ve hardened our systems against potential attacks,” he said.

“Those attacks will come without question if we don’t deal with the vulnerabilities.”

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