Digital trust and sovereign cyber capability

James Riley
Editorial Director

For a government that has turned its attention to sovereign capability and supply chain issues in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, industry growth centre AustCyber has come up with some research that will make its hair curl.

A four-week disruption to the nation’s digital infrastructure that results from a significant cyber security incident would cost the economy $30 billion or about 1.5 per cent of GDP, and the direct loss of 163,000 jobs.

An ongoing disruption would bring compounded disaster, as the so-called ‘digital trust’ in the online economy that has been built over generations of new technology begins to break down.

The AustCyber Digital Trust Report 2020 draw attention to the value of the digital economy, and the risk to the trust system that underpins it. Australians are increasingly aware of the risk in the system, the report says, not least because the Prime Minister has called out the malicious activities of a ‘State actor’ in targeting Australian organisations.

mIchelle price
Michelle Price: Building sovereign cybersecurity capability is key

Mitigating the risk is now a higher-order priority, AustCyber says, and ultimately that means building sovereign cyber capability and reducing the nation’s reliance on offshore technology providers. Investment in the local industry is key.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid move to remote working and education, renewed focus on online business delivery and fast adaptation of supply chains using digital technologies,” AustCyber chief executive Michelle Price said.

“The quality of digitisation and its trustworthiness is now under immense pressure as the economy starts to recover from the pandemic. Focus and resources are needed to ensure the nation’s digital environment is secure, resilient, and effective.”

The report puts forward an argument that cybersecurity is a foundational pillar of digital trust in the economy.

“Digital trust is the level of confidence users have in the ability of technology to enable a high functioning cyber-physical world,” the report says.

“It is earned by providing secure, private, safe and reliable access to (and interaction with) technology, as well as the ways in which technology has been designed, constructed and delivered.”

A breakdown in that trust in the system would have a devastating impact on the economy, and on the way Australian society is organised.

Assuring digital trust, growing global competitiveness and better valuing the assets the nation now holds in digital infrastructure and data requires cyber security and transparent management of privacy, the report says.

Ultimately, AustCyber has called for government and industry to use sovereign cybersecurity products as part of the current focus on digital transformation.

Increased investment in Australia’s cyber security sector would underwrite sustained capability generation and industry growth. In the longer term, Australia can develop a culture and reputation for high ‘digital trust’ – a competitive advantage in the global economy that would attract investment and drive jobs growth.

“This report shows that not only are key sections of Australia’s economy undergoing a step-change because of the transition to a digital environment, but that Australia’s economic future is founded in large part on the security of this digital step-change going forward,” Ms Price said

“For the benefits of this transformation to be fully realised, including revenue and jobs recovery, Australia must invest in the means to secure digital infrastructure and data to assure trust and sustain efforts to reboot growth.

“This will ensure all parts of the Australian economy that are becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies have a solid a base for market confidence and successful investment,” she said.

The Digital Trust Report suggests digital activity in Australia now contributes $426 billion to the Australian economy. This is up from the $315 billion that was estimated by Data61 in 2018. The sector generates $1 trillion in gross economic output and equates to 1 in 6 jobs across the economy.

The economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our economy has yet to be fully measured. It is not clear if Australia could have survived a sustained, serious, or scaled digital disruption at the same time as the economic ‘hibernation’ caused by the pandemic, the report said.

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