Liberal senator and defence committee chair Eric Abetz has called on his government to hold a national cybersecurity summit in response to the growing threat cyberattacks pose to individuals and businesses.
Senator Abetz, a government senator, has written to Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews urging her to hold a summit of “industry experts, business leaders and government agencies to discuss the future of Australia’s cybersecurity”.
The Senator, who is also chair of the Senate’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee and a member of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS), pointed to reports that an Australian business is hit by a cyber attack every 10 minutes, with a total economic cost of $29 billion per year, as evidence that more action is needed from his own party on the issue.
“Whilst the federal government has done an outstanding job in tandem with the business sector and institutions, the wisdom of holding a cybersecurity summit is as unassailable as it would be beneficial,” Senator Abetz said.
“By having all the various strands of cybersecurity defence coming together, there will be the obvious benefit of cooperation and sharing which has always been part of the Australian ethos. Harnessing that spirit by way of collaboration between our own private sector technology world leaders such as Senetas and educators will be of real benefit for all.
“As the reliance on technology and remote working gains in popularity and practice, the best possible protections for all which would be achieved by a national cybersecurity summit is needed.”
Senator Abetz pointed to statistics that show that if cyber crime were a country it would have the world’s third largest economy, with it estimated to cost $10.5 trillion globally by 2025.
The opposition has been pushing for more action on cybersecurity across this year, with shadow assistant minister for cybersecurity Tim Watts criticising the government for a lack of action and for not having a specific minister responsible for the portfolio.
In response to Senator Abetz’s calls, Mr Watts said the government needs action on cybersecurity rather than more talk.
“That Senator Abetz thinks a summit is necessary demonstrates the Morrison government’s complete lack of political leadership on cybersecurity,” Mr Watts told InnovationAus.
“The Morrison government isn’t short of advice from experts. What’s missing is the delivery on all its cybersecurity tough talk. Experts have been telling the government to tackle the urgent threat of ransomware for months, but still the government hasn’t acted.”
The opposition has called for a national ransomware strategy and has introduced legislation implementing a mandatory notification scheme in a private member’s bill, but it is yet to be debated in Parliament.
Labor has since moved to introduce the bill to the Senate instead to force a debate.
The Coalition unveiled the $1.7 billion cybersecurity strategy last year, including new critical infrastructure requirements, hacking powers for the AFP and a focus on the cyber resilience of businesses.
In July, a cross-agency taskforce was established to focus on ransomware, with members from the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.
Ms Andrews said the creation of the taskforce signalled that “time’s up” for ransomware gangs around the world.
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