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SHOCK HORROR: Oz's biggest govt agencies to miss infosec deadline

They patch when they feel like it and ignore spooks' advice

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Australia's largest government agencies will miss a July deadline to implement even basic information security controls.

The Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO's) annual report says that the country's biggest government agencies won't deploy Defence-issued controls to implement fast patching and organisation-wide whitelisting by July 1st.

The ANAO ran a beady eye over security at the Australian Tax office and the Department of Human Services, the two biggest federal agencies in the country, along with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Customs, the Australian Financial Security Authority, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and IP Australia.

Under the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) government agencies must follow mitigation controls that mandate application and operating system patching within two days of an update release, application whitelisting, and a reduction of admin privileges.

Keen-eyed readers will be aware that these full under the Australian Signals Directorate's "don't be stupid" list of high-value security practises, which has been around since at least 2011.

The report, dubbed Cyber Attacks: Securing Agencies’ ICT Systems, did not name which agencies were and were not close to compliance, but all had begun whitelisting and patching to various degrees.

Patching was found to be largely an ad-hoc affair. Three of the seven agencies examined did not patch anything between May to August last year nor bother to even examine the impact of not doing so.

All agencies failed to implement application whitelisting on servers and prevent unknown executables from running on desktops or servers.

Most agencies applied an ad-hoc approach to patching strategies due to "competing operational priorities", the ANAO said in the report.

The security flunks were reasonably secured from internal threats, but exposed to external hacking. This would be no surprise to infosec bods and may also be seen as positive given that most Australian government agencies usually receive serious security slap downs from state auditors.

Agencies blamed non-compliance on undisclosed competing priorities, poor resources and a lack of access to skilled hackers.®

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