A major review of Australia’s military preparedness released under Freedom of Information laws last night has confirmed Australia’s vulnerability to an increasingly likely major cyber attack.

The mobilisation review, finalised last year, reveals a deep concern within Defence about the preparedness of Australian society for unconventional forms of warfare, including cyber attacks.

The review found that “In every scenario, targets were mostly civilian rather than military or governmental. Disruption of food and fuel supply chains was a common theme. Other scenarios targeted consumer banking, ticketing at major sports events, or ‘mum and dad’ business networks, to increase public inconvenience and fears.”

These findings demonstrate the urgent need to build Australia’s cyber resilience throughout the community, and reinforce Labor’s recent discussion paper National Cyber Resilience: Is Australia Ready for a Computer COVID-19?

The report’s disclosure also comes at a time when we’re seeing the systematic impact that major shocks can have in our interconnected world.

In the past fortnight, we have seen the IT systems of the Toll Group logistics company compromised by ransomware, disrupting the distribution of influenza vaccines.

We have also had the Government’s early access to superannuation program suspended because of malicious cyber attacks.

Multiple ANAO audits have revealed that commonwealth government entities are continuing to fail to implement basic cyber security measure, and industry surveys tells us that the cyber security of small- to medium-sized businesses is worryingly patchy. These businesses could be child care or health providers. Or they could form a part of our vital supply chains.

The threat to Australian society – and the provision of essential goods and services – from cyber attacks is not theoretical. This Defence Department review confirms the potential risks.

We need to get serious about building National Cyber Resilience throughout Australia. That means reinstating a dedicated Cyber Security role in the executive and taking cyber security policy beyond the defence and intelligence communities and into the Australian community.

Government needs to consider interventionist policies like an Active Cyber Defence programme to improve the baseline security of the internet in Australia and look at new ways of building and organising skills in this area through a Cyber Civilian Corps or Cyber Reserves. In fact, the Defence report says that a ‘Cyber Reserve’ program and a ‘civil defence mentality’ should be key aspects of our national cyber resilience – topics covered in Labor’s discussion paper.



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Tim Watts MP

Shadow Assistant Minister for Cybersecurity and Communications. Labor Member for Gellibrand. Authorised: Tim Watts, 97 Geelong Rd, #Footscray.