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Australia is the ‘weakest link’ in AUKUS cyber security

Cyber security experts have warned that Australia needs to tighten its cyber security or risk exposing AUKUS secrets.

user icon Daniel Croft
Tue, 14 Mar 2023
Australia is the ‘weakest link’ in AUKUS cyber security
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Following the slew of major data breaches that Australia has faced in the last 12 months and the growing fear that the country is being increasingly targeted by Chinese hackers, experts are concerned that military secrets from the US and UK could be compromised.

“The security of the classified material within AUKUS is of the utmost importance, which means prioritising cyber security but also protecting against human vulnerabilities, both witting and unwitting,” said the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Justin Bassi.

The call for Australia to ramp up its cyber capabilities comes as Australia has agreed to enter an AUKUS submarine deal costing up to $368 billion by the 2050s.

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China has warned Australia against the deal, with President Xi Jinping saying that Beijing would counter the deal with additional military growth.

Additional focus from China could bring a new wave of cyber attacks targeting AUKUS and its secrets, something experts are saying Australia is not ready for.

“We can’t be the weakest link,” said Alastair MacGibbon, chief strategy officer at CyberCX.

“We need to treat the information … shared by the Americans and the British with the same degree [of caution] that they would. These are among their most strategic secrets.”

According to reports from the Auditor-General, key government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is responsible for overseeing AUKUS engagements, failed to meet cyber security standards in a number of ways.

In addition, an earlier report from March 2021 found that the government’s protective security policy framework had not been fully adopted by 72 per cent of non-corporate federal agencies in 2018 and 2019.

The government entered the AUKUS agreement ensuring that the nation’s cyber security was up to scratch, saying that the private sector will take on the brunt of cyber care. However, experts are saying that the sector is under-prepared.

Citing CyberCX’s prediction that by 2025 the industry will be short 30,000 workers, MacGibbon said that Australia is not ready to protect AUKUS secrets.

“We know that our capabilities are insufficient for today’s problems, let alone tomorrow’s,” he said.

“There’s no country with a surplus of skilled cyber security professionals. And frankly, unless they’re coming from the US and the UK, they’re going to be [of] no use to us anyway, under these regimes.

“This is not about cyber start-ups, as cool as they always are for [the] government. This is about cyber scale-ups.”

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Born in the heart of Western Sydney, Daniel Croft is a passionate journalist with an understanding for and experience writing in the technology space. Having studied at Macquarie University, he joined Momentum Media in 2022, writing across a number of publications including Australian Aviation, Cyber Security Connect and Defence Connect. Outside of writing, Daniel has a keen interest in music, and spends his time playing in bands around Sydney.

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