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Australia‘s cybersecurity landscape

Just like most countries around the world, Australia’s cybersecurity landscape has been influenced by recent advancements in technology.

To no one’s surprise, the web has become a mainstay of modern life in developed countries like Australia. Millions of people use vulnerable IoT and other web-capable devices for entertainment, day-to-day communication, and news consumption each day [1].

What follows exponential increases in internet use are the rising risks of cyberattacks on Australians on both an individual and national scale. In response to numerous instances of cybercrime during the last decade, Australia introduced new cybersecurity measures to deal with these new threats to the country’s citizens, businesses, and political infrastructure [2].

Even though cybersecurity in Australia is slowly improving, the country’s cyber defense capabilities can still be considered as lagging behind those of other developed nations.

Australian cybersecurity institutions

The pre-eminent cybersecurity institution in Australia is the ACSC (Australian Cyber Security Centre) [3].

The ACSC is the main body focused on improving cybersecurity and reducing the rate of cyberattacks in Australia. The ACSC was founded in 2014 and has developed swiftly since its establishment.

This institution is part of the Australian Signals Directorate. As cybersecurity has become a more prominent issue all over the world, the ACSC has seen increased resources and significance to the country in recent years. Previously existing as separate governmental cybersecurity entities, CERT Australia and the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) have since been incorporated into the ACSC, creating one large institution with greater power and a wider array of available resources.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre is focused on cybersecurity at all levels, from individuals and members of the general Australian public through to small and medium businesses, right the way up to local, state, and federal governments. The ACSC is focused on responding to cybersecurity threats and making use of the CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) when necessary. Additionally, the ACSC works at raising awareness of cybersecurity all around Australia.

Australia is also part of the 5 Eyes Alliance. It’s an alliance of major English-speaking countries over the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and allows data to be exchanged between the nations’ leading intelligence agencies. The aim of this alliance is to prevent terrorist attacks and protect the people, but fears have been raised about the way the Five Eyes alliance works and the potential risks the public may face.

Australia’s cyber statistics

In recent years, the Australia’s cybercrime statistics have become increasingly concerning [4].

In 2016 alone, the rate of cybercrime cases in the country was seen to double [5].

Statistics and surveys show that over 60% of businesses encounter cybersecurity issues on a monthly basis, with many individuals also being subject to malware and other cyber-attacks.

Such a high rate of cybercrime makes Australia one of the leading targets for cybercriminals around the world. Just like in other developed countries, the majority of cyber-attacks in Australia are identified as coming from external sources. In large part, the targets tend to be individuals using the internet at home and falling victim to malware or identity theft.

Additionally, over 500,000 small businesses in Australia are victims of cybercrime each year [6]. The potential costs incurred by small and medium sized businesses go well into millions of dollars [7]. These cybercrime statistics are especially worrying for new start-ups and companies as cyber-attacks become increasingly widespread and effective.

Australia witnessed one of its most severe cyber-attacks in early 2019 [8]. This attack was focused on the Australian Parliament in the buildup to a federal election, which raised a lot of concern both in Australia and the international community. The cyber-attack was identified as coming from a “sophisticated state actor”, leading to the term “cyber war” taking on greater meaning for the nation.

Educating Australia’s society

Raising awareness about cybersecurity issues and cyber-attacks in Australia is one of the main duties and obligations of the ACSC. Helping both businesses and members of the public learn more about cybersecurity and how to keep their data and connections safe is among the primary aims of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

To this end, the ACSC organizes awareness initiatives aimed at letting Aussies know why they need to stay safe online and how they should go about it, which are a big part of helping the country fight back against cyber criminals. Additionally, the ASCS encourages more of the nation’s young people to take an active interest in cybersecurity.

Still, a lot more needs to be done in terms of cybersecurity education in the country. According to statistics, Australia has less than 10% of the cybersecurity personnel it needs to counter increasing threats [9]. This lack of a trained workforce is potentially costing the Australia’s businesses and institutions hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The cybercrime statistics are particularly worrying as Australia is highly reliant on the internet.

With close to 90% of the Australian population connected to the web, the most individuals and businesses use it each and every day.

With that in mind, recent public surveys revealed that almost 50% of Australians don’t think they’re under threat of malware or any other form of cyber-attacks, which is even more worrying [10].

This means that many Australians are staying safe online by using anti-malware software, as well as Virtual Private Networks, to secure their internet connections. Without these security tools, Australians’ online connections, transactions, and other communications are at risk, which can make the rate of cyber-attacks in the country increase even further.

Resources used:

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/680142/australia-internet-penetration/
  2. https://www.cert.gov.au/news/cyber-security-challenges-2018
  3. https://www.acsc.gov.au/
  4. https://www.cert.gov.au/aisi/statistics/malware-statistics
  5. https://www.arnnet.com.au/article/616804/cybercrime-australia-doubled-2016/
  6. https://www.smartcompany.com.au/technology/from-millions-to-malware-cyber-attacks-in-australia-by-the-numbers/
  7. https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/650122/400-million-cost-australia-cyber-security-skills-shortage/
  8. https://www.news.com.au/technology/online/hacking/global-fear-over-australian-cyber-attack-as-dozens-of-us-entities-targeted-by-iran-and-china/news-story/5131daf3d66d628af2bcc987ece4ce7b
  9. https://www.cso.com.au/article/645445/australia-only-has-7-percent-cybersecurity-expertise-it-needs/
  10. https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/Newsroom/Newsroom/Media-releases/australians-underrate-the-risks-of-malware-1

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