Opening remarks - 2021 Australian Cyber Conference

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The Hon Andrew Hastie MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

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Ella Kenny 0437 702 111

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16 March 2021

**Proofed against delivery**

Thank you very much Juanita and good morning to you all.

It’s great to be with you all and I’m very happy to be here to open the 2021 Australian Cyber Conference here in Canberra.

I’m humbled to be here with such an innovative and influential group of people this morning. 

I’m especially glad to be here in my new role as the Assistant Minister for Defence.

Every day I’m gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for all of the complex and important work that goes on within Defence to defend our nation. 

Defence, national security, and protecting Australia’s national interests has shaped my entire military and parliamentary career up to this point. Ensuring the security of the nation and the safety of Australians has always been my number one priority.

For 13 years I served with the Australian Defence Force starting here in Canberra with the Australian Defence Force Academy at Duntroon and for the last 4 years I chaired the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security.

And now, in my new ministerial role, I’m very proud of being able to play a key role within the federal government to keep Australia safe and protected from current and future global threats – and cyber security is such a critical component of that effort. 

Many of you would remember last year on July 1 the Prime Minister spoke not far from here at the Australian Defence Force Academy where he gave the Defence strategic update, we are straddling vast change in the Indo-Pacific region where we’re seeing greater geostrategic competition between nation states, we’re seeing militaries modernise and we’re seeing the use of grey zone tactics to coerce states below the threshold of conventional war.

And cyber warfare is a critical part of what we call grey zone tactics.

Cyber is the new battlefield – and whether we like it or not, we are all joined in an online contest to preserve our personal security but also our digital sovereignty as a country.
We cannot be complacent.

It is essential we consider cyber security when we talk about Australia's national security, our innovation and prosperity. And a major cyber-attack could have a devastating impact on our economy, our security and our sovereignty.

We live in a cyber world. 

This is a new reality, not for you in this room, you’re all specialists in your fields. But for many Australians it’s a new reality.

The internet is now the neural system of our lives – from news, to work, to social media. It is also important to our economy, and it’s the lifeblood of our democratic society. 
The effectiveness of our economic recovery depends, in no small part, on the cyber resilience and the health of our businesses, our research institutions, our critical infrastructure and our essential service providers. 

It also depends on all Australians’ feeling confident and secure to be active online. As the pandemic has shown us, an open and safe internet keeps us connected with our loved ones, our employers and colleagues, and means we can continue to live our lives in this ‘new normal’ of a COVID environment.

And this is more important than ever before. On a daily basis now, Australians are reading about new vulnerabilities being exploited by malicious actors, and are waking up each morning to news stories of hacks affecting governments and organisations globally. 

This Government is taking action. And in a short time, I have already had the privilege of witnessing the important work the government is doing to help make Australia the safest place to connect online.

I’ve seen the important work the Australian Cyber Security Centre led by Abi Bradshaw who is here today, does every day to help keep all Australians safe online. 
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the technical operators, people from backgrounds as diverse as hairdressers and financial specialists – demonstrating the unique mix of specialist skills, talent and imagination forming the core of the ACSC’s workforce. 

This work includes many new initiatives and investments stemming from the Government’s Australian Cyber Security Strategy of last year.

I’m equally aware of the important role that industry and academia play - working hand in glove with government through partnerships - to strengthen Australia’s cyber defences. 

I recently held an industry roundtable with key members of Australia’s finance and banking sector where we discussed the importance of business rolling out Multi Factor Authentication and helping to increase its adoption across all sectors of Australia’s economy. 

We all use MFA, and those who know about it, now the task is to mainstream it so that Australians from young Australians right through to seniors are practicing good cyber hygiene in their daily lives.

This is part of the Government’s new cyber security campaign, which is providing rolling advice on common cyber security threats for organisations, businesses and individuals. 

This is just one example of the many possibilities before us that we must take advantage of and I encourage more partnerships and cooperation going forward – because frankly, the costs of not joining forces are too high.

And if we take the Defence Strategic Update seriously then we must act and we must work together and that’s what we’re doing through this conference and I’m very heartened by the work that you will be undertaking.

Today, digital supply chains are just as crucial as the railway and telegraph lines were to previous generations.

But this also makes them irresistible targets – both to criminals and to state-based actors.  

We know that malicious cyber activity is increasing in frequency, it’s increasing in scale and it’s increasing in sophistication. 

Last financial year, the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre received over 60,000 cybercrime reports. 

That is one every 10 minutes. 

At one end of the spectrum, there are opportunistic cyber criminals and online scammers who target individuals and companies for financial gain. 

At the other end of the spectrum are sophisticated state-based actors and proxies operating in the grey zone.

We must combine our knowledge and our expertise, as well as our unique insights and capabilities, to detect and respond to this broad and evolving threat landscape.

But apart from building productive and enduring partnerships to defend against and respond to cyber threats, we also need to encourage good cyber hygiene and drive improved cyber practices across our nation – in our homes, in our schools and universities, and in our workplaces.

And that’s why I’m particularly interested in this event’s focus on discussing ‘possibilities’, including how government and cyber security practitioners can assist Australians – and Australian businesses – to adapt to new cyber threats and expectations, and help support positive and resilient cyber security cultures. 

Thank you for having me here this morning and it’s terrific to officially declare open the Australian Cyber Conference 2021.

And if you’ll forgive me I have to get back up to the House to start the day, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, thank you very much.

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