More money for ASIO won't fix security problem: Ludlam

Real issue is organisational accountability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, says Greens Senator

The Australian Greens have called for an investigation into how an ASIO building site contractor’s system was hacked and documents including floor plans were stolen.

According to an ABC Four Corners report which aired 27 May, the hack was traced to a server in China. The hackers also netted details of the Canberra building’s communication cabling layouts, server locations and security systems.

Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis said the government needed to properly resource all national security agencies to counter cyber attacks, amid reports that recent public service efficiency measures have undermined agencies' capabilities.

However, Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, told Computerworld Australia that handing more money to ASIO to solve the security issue would not work.

“ASIO’s budget has quadrupled since 2001 and their staffing has tripled. This is an agency that is vastly better resourced than it was during the entire period of the Cold War when espionage was at its height,” he said.

“The issue does not need to be elevated to the level of a moral panic.”

According to Ludlam, ASIO’s new building had already gone over budget by $200 million.

He said the real issue was organisational accountability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including what precautions subcontractors take to protect secure information.

“States and corporates have been conducting espionage on each other as long as those institutions have existed,” Ludlam said.

“I think it would be foolish to assume that the Chinese are the only ones who conduct these sorts of activities, because clearly they are not.”

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Senator Bob Carr told Sky News that the government is "very alive" to emerging cyber-security threats but refused to confirm the ABC's specific claims on Tuesday.

"I won't comment on whether the Chinese have done what is being alleged or not," he said.

"I won't comment on matters of intelligence and security for the obvious reason: we don't want to share with the world and potential aggressors what we know about what they might be doing, and how they might be doing it."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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