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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6330

Mr GEORGANAS (3:26 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General outline what the government is doing to protect Australia’s e-security in light of a recent report which found that security breaches cost small and medium businesses $600 million in 2007?

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) —I thank the honourable member for Hindmarsh for his question. The threat of electronic security incidents was outlined recently in a report of the Australian Institute of Criminology entitled Australian business assessment of computer user security. It estimated that business sustained losses in the order of $595 million up to $649 million as a result of electronic security threats. The government believes that these identified threats are probably only the tip of the iceberg. The Prime Minister indicated in his National Security Statement last year that electronic security is indeed now a national security priority.

Obviously, it is in the interests of the broader community and the economy for there to be complete faith and confidence in the viability of commercial transactions undertaken over the internet. That is why in the last budget we committed some $8.8 million in additional funding to initiatives in the civil area, as opposed to the defence area with high-end technologies, to deal with the threats posed by electronic security incidents. In particular, we have established a new computer emergency response team to act as the single point of contact for businesses, homes and schools to identify threats and vulnerabilities and of course to communicate information about strategies to protect electronic systems. This is in addition to the initiatives announced in the defence white paper to establish the Cyber Security Operations Centre. That centre will be staffed by representatives of the Australian Defence Force, my department and the Australian Federal Police. It will be a 24-hour, seven-day-a week watch centre. That watch centre will be able to provide better situational awareness of what is happening broadly on the internet and achieve better coordination.

These initiatives build on activities that are already occurring. For instance, my department has provided briefings on electronic attack threats to some 460 companies. There is a regular exchange of information through the Trusted Information Sharing Network and the Australian Federal Police have developed sophisticated investigation techniques to identify and prosecute those engaged in electronic security incidents. Also, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy engages in a number of programs to promote electronic security awareness to homes, small businesses and schools. Indeed, on a related topic I note that the Deputy Prime Minister indicated last week an outstanding program to address cyberbullying in schools.

In summary, the government takes threats to electronic security very seriously. We are adopting a holistic approach to ensuring online security for the government, for critical infrastructure and for the broader community. Any member of the community, whether they be in a business, a school or a home, who has concerns about this area should refer to my department’s website for details of relevant contacts, who will be able to provide assistance.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.