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Aus govt gets cracking on cyber threats

Government listens, now that the big end of town is scared

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Australians might not have decent security disclosure laws or privacy protection, but the government has finally noticed that its agencies might need guidelines about secure storage of citizens’ data.

Launching the government’s National Cyber Security Awareness Week , federal attorney-general Robert McClelland said new security measures were being developed and would be rolled out later this year. “The guidelines, which model best practice, require agencies to take steps to ensure that electronic information held is accessed, shared and stored in a secure way,” he said.

The A-G added that the onus is not just on government but the private sector to ensure that personal information is protected.

“The Australian Government has made cyber security a top national security priority and has invested significantly in enhancing Australia's cyber security capabilities. Cyber security is a shared responsibility and Awareness Week demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together towards helping Australians be safe and secure online,” he added.

McClelland’s comments come as executives from Australia’s resource giants spoke up over the ongoing barrage of cyber threats from multiple sources.

Speaking at The Australian Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum last week Woodside Petroleum CEO Don Voelte said: "It comes from everywhere. It comes from eastern Europe; it comes from Russia. Just don't pick on the Chinese; it's everywhere."

The chairman of Shell Australia Ann Pickard added that cyber attacks had become an increased focus of concern. "The attacks on companies ... is pretty big, so we're all very careful in this space."

Last month communications minister Stephen Conroy met with chief executives from twenty big resource companies, banks and manufacturers to discuss the rising cyber threat.

It is understood that executives received confidential briefings from peak intelligence agency the Office of National Assessments, ASIO, as well as the military's intelligence spy agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).

The attorney-general added that the government was continuing to promote the ISP code of practice, the iCode, aimed to promote a cybersecurity culture within ISPs and was continuing to work with the private sector on similar initiatives.

The iCode is reportedly attracting attention from the US as a possible model for improving security in that country.

“The Australian Government has put in place crisis management arrangements which take effect if a cyber incident occurs,” he said. This includes Cyber Storm III, an international exercise conducted in September 2010 with the US Department of Homeland Security. “Cyber Storm III allowed us to test our preparedness for cyber threats and strengthen relationships with the business community and also with our international partners. This means that if something goes wrong, the government and the private sector can work together to fix the problem,” he said. ®

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