An academic specialising in cyber security has urged the opposition to keep the Labor government’s proposed Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) if it wins the next federal election on 14 September.
University of Sydney Business School PhD candidate Max Soyref told Computerworld Australia that the ACSC is vital because even if the Coalition government decided to implement a different version of the National Broadband Network (NBN), the government would still need to protect the network from cyber criminals and nation state attacks.
“We are living in a time where you need a minimum of defence and this is the kind of [cyber security] investment that is needed to keep up with the times,” he said.
“I have seen the criticism coming from the opposition saying that the centre is window dressing but this is an idea that needs to happen in some way.”
Soyref added that the ACSC and $1.46 billion in cyber security network funding needs to be backed up by building stronger links between the federal government, Australian businesses and international governments.
“This should include [cyber security] education and hosting conferences as well as ensuring that Australia has a credible defence capability,” he said.
“The more education programs we can offer in Australia about cyber security and the more engineering capability we can build up domestically means that Australia can have a stronger [cyber security] presence in the Asia-Pacific region.”
According to Soyref, having a stronger cyber security presence in the Asia-Pacific region is vital due to security concerns around China, one of Australia's largest trading partners.
“There have been calls about not seeing China as a big enemy in defence and diplomatic concepts but what we keep seeing is that allegedly they are one of the major government sponsors of hackers,” he said.
Soyref pointed to recent attacks on The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. On 1 February, The Wall Street Journal said in a statement that it had been targeted by hackers trying to monitor the newspaper's coverage of China.
The New York Times also reported that China-based hackers had stolen passwords and gained access to email accounts for employees of the company. Two reporters were targeted, one of whom wrote an exposé published in October 2012 about the finances of China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, and his family.
“It is a very challenging situation because so far the Chinese military have managed to cleverly separate themselves from what are alleged to be state sponsored attackers,” Soyref said.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick