#RSAC: Australia Well Placed to Cash in on Cybersecurity Prosperity says MP

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Australian MP, the Hon. Dan Tehan, called for Australia and Asia Pacific to become the world leaders in cybersecurity in order to achieve economic prosperity and national security. 

In his keynote presentation at RSA Conference 2017 Asia Pacific and Japan, held in Singapore, the Hon. Dan Tehan addressed the unique cybersecurity challenges that Asia Pacific faces as a region, and called for those challenges to be turned into opportunities.

“The potential for the cybersecurity boom is all around us and we can’t let it pass us by”, said the Hon. Dan Tehan who is the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for cybersecurity. “News of cyber-attacks should be seen as opportunities to create jobs, create products and fix the problem. The money we can save is the cybersecurity dividend”, he said, clarifying that the jobs that would be created and the businesses that would be made from developing the cybersecurity industry are the ‘cybersecurity dividend’.

“We, as a region, need to become world leaders in cybersecurity, it is vital to our national security and our economic prosperity that we cash in on the coming cyber boom”, he said.

The Australian MP explained that Asia Pacific has unique elements to the cybersecurity challenge. In terms of cyber-threats, “we have both the major vulnerability in our critical infrastructure and a major target in our growing financial sector.”

Asia is a closely linked region and infrastructure runs across many countries in many forms. “It relies on every part of the chain to remain strong in order for all of us to be secure. One infection in an energy network is all that is required to put each country at risk.”

Security of the critical infrastructure draws countries in Asia Pacific closer together and allows more investment and growth. The countries’ reliance on each other, however, means that cyber-threats have heightened damage and the region’s cybersecurity will therefore only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain. It is in every country’s best interest to support the cybersecurity of their neighbors, said the MP. “Cyber-criminals will seek out countries and jurisdictions with little cybercrime legislations and those with no or limited enforcement capacity. The weakest link in the chain will become the refuge for cyber-criminals or the target for cyber-attack. The strongest nations have the greatest motivation to help and assist the less developed.

“Asia’s unique interconnected infrastructure and its place as a growing financial hub provide particularly unique cybersecurity challenges. However, there is nowhere like the Asia Pacific that is as equipped or able to meet those challenges.”

Asia, claimed the Hon. Dan Tehan, is “the World’s technology region. The US might have Silicon Valley, but the hardware from their ideas comes from the Asia Pacific. Together, our countries represent the most technologically capable and efficient in the world.” In 2014 alone, he continued, Asia exported 79% of the world’s personal computers.

“We have the capabilities to meet the challenges of cybersecurity if we invest in our people and develop our ability to train and educate them. The region is perfectly placed to take advantage of a demand for cybersecurity experts in the same way they demand the computers and hardware they already make. Investing in this challenge, then, is not only something that will keep us safe, but an opportunity to drive an economic boom for the region.”

Offensive Security

The Hon. Dan Tehan claimed that eight out of the 10 countries most threatened by malicious cyber activity are in Asia. As Microsoft reported, he said, APAC is one of the most active regions when it comes to malware. Some countries in this region are reporting double the world’s average for malware attacks.

Cybersecurity is one of Australia’s highest national security priorities, he confirmed. In 2016, the Australian Prime Minister launched the cybersecurity strategy. “The strategy acknowledges that cybersecurity is not something that can be addressed by one company or one government. Government wants to work closer with industry and create an environment where a world-leading cybersecurity strategy can thrive.”

For countries and governments, he said, cyber-threats should be treated in the same way as any other threat to security. “In Australia, we have announced that we have both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities. By offensive capabilities, we mean that Australia has the capability to disrupt, deny or degrade the computers or computer networks of cyber-criminals”

In the same way that the Australian domestic police force has the capability to use force against those who disrupt the peace offline, the Australian Government has been given the capability to use force against those who disturb the police online.  

“Whilst developing offensive capabilities, we do so in a manner consistent with our understanding of our obligations under international law”, Tehan insisted.

“Every country, company and individual with an internet connection will need to access cybersecurity products and services. Demand for cybersecurity resources is expected to grow to $170bn AUD by the end of 2020.” To put this into perspective, the global PC market was $146bn AUD last year.

Expectation, said Tehan, is for the APAC cybersecurity market to grow to over $30bn AUD by 2020. This, he said, is a figure that Australia should be aiming to beat. “We should be aiming to cash in on the cybersecurity dividend. Australia’s government believes that with adequate investment, we can provide an environment to create a larger and local cybersecurity industry to support our growing online needs.”

The Australian cybersecurity growth network is “the only one of its kind in the world.” The network has the backing of the Australian government – including $31.9bn AUD funding – and its objective is to ensure Australian business can take advantage of opportunities in the global cybersecurity industry.

“It is intended to ensure Australia is a global leader in the cybersecurity industry, able to export products and services in the global marketplace whilst helping Australian businesses and governments to address the threat of cybercrime”.

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