Government and industry have been warned to invest in stronger cyber defenses as part of a nationwide campaign against crippling ransomware and other online attacks.
Australia needs a pan-national approach to the threat because the rate of digital adoption has reached a whole new level, says Andy Penn, chair of the cyber industry committee that advises the federal government.
Mr Penn, who is also the outgoing CEO of the country’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra, said the digital space was about to take another big leap forward in technology that “will enable a whole new world” by the end of this decade.
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“A world with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and access to unlimited knowledge from the cloud and edge computing,” he said Tuesday in a speech to the National Press Club at Canberra.
“A world of multiple possibilities from artificial intelligence and the ‘Internet of Things’, the new digital metaverse, robotics, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology and quantum computing. »
Mr Penn said Australia could not risk falling behind, but also had to deal with new threats.
“The risk of attacks on Australian networks due to geopolitical tensions, either directly or inadvertently, has also increased,” he said.
“And while the threat of cyberattack from state actors is real, it is the ripple effects that pose significant risks to consumers.”
Mr Penn said Telstra, for example, works 24/7 to protect its networks from malicious activity.
He said that over the past year he has blocked more than a billion malicious emails and 200 million fraudulent calls.
On a daily basis, it blocks 1500 fraudulent SMS every minute.
There are also growing risks of businesses getting caught up in ransomware attacks, email scams and smartphone malware.
Mr Penn referred to a racket known as the “business email compromise”, in which malicious actors use email to pretend to be a legitimate business and send messages tricking recipients into sending money or goods .
It is estimated that 80% of Australian businesses suffered a ransomware attack in 2021 and over $80 million was lost to email scams.
Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil is reviewing the former government’s cybersecurity strategy and says she wants input from industry as much as possible.
The next iteration should support critical technologies, support new jobs and skills, and place cyber at the heart of national security.
Penn said elevating cybersecurity to the federal cabinet is recognition that it is a national priority.
But he said the “single biggest lever” is community outreach.
“Unless we really help the community help themselves through better password protection, patching systems, offline backups, we’ll never be able to catch it all,” Penn said. .
He said basic cyber awareness must also be built into curricula – starting in school – for robotics, software engineering, analytics and data science.
“A cyber specialist usually comes in after the event and tries to fix the problem, when in fact we can embed cybersecurity more into products and services early on,” Penn said.
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