Address to the Orange Regional City Cyber Security Conference

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson: 0404 648 275

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6 December 2022

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Wiradjuri people.

And I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Minister for the Republic, I also pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served our nation in the past and continue to do so today.

I’d also like to publicly acknowledge the outstanding work of the ADF personnel based out of Romani Barracks who are on the ground and working hard to assist flood-stricken communities in the region. 

The ADF has deployed additional personnel to Orange to assist with flood relief.

I know the people of this region have a great affinity for the ADF.

And ADF personnel have embraced the opportunity to support them in their time of need.

The ADF has done fantastic work, supporting the SES and pitching in to clean-up local homes in towns from Canowindra to Condobolin, in Parkes and Forbes, out to Euabalong to Eugowra, Hilston and Warroo and other flood affected communities in the region.

They’ve stacked sandbags, conducted welfare checks, provided evacuation support, transport, logistics resupply, access assistance and initial recovery support.

They’ve done whatever needs to be done to put things right again.

Their work is greatly appreciated by the Government and I know it’s appreciated by everyone here today.

Councillor Jeff Whitton;

Leaders from industry and academia...

I’m delighted to join you today ...

I thank the New South Wales Cyber Business Exchange for organising this “Meet the Experts” event...

And I also thank our hosts, Charles Sturt University.

Charles Sturt plays a vital role in developing Defence’s most important asset:

Our People.

There is a great partnership across an incredible span of disciplines, from the University’s strength in cyber security, but also the critical areas of counter terrorism, data analytics and machine learning.

All are vital to the future security of Australia.

The scale of the cyber threat facing our country is immense.

We’ve seen broad targeting of Australians and rapid exploitation of vulnerabilities by state actors and cybercriminals.

We’ve seen cybercriminals get inside systems looking to steal sensitive data or to thieve money.

Even personal information like emails, addresses and dates of birth are valuable, as they can help thieves to create false accounts or even sell identities to data brokers.

We’ve seen prolific use of ransomware and business email compromise.

It’s the biggest threat to organisations and to Australia’s digital economy.

The Annual Cyber Threat Report reveals over 76,000 cybercrime reports were submitted to the ACSC last financial year.

That was an increase of 13 per cent from the previous year.

Cybercrimes were reported every 7 minutes on average – and that represents an acceleration of crime from every 8 minutes from the previous year.

The reality is, whether you’re in a skyscraper in the Sydney CBD or a small business here in Orange...

You’re a target.

Every Australian has that personal data that is so valuable, not to mention the critical customer or financial information that comes to mind first.

There is a priceless resource that is available to every Australian organisation, large and small, that is serious about protecting themselves from cyber attacks and cybercrime.

And best of all – it’s free.

It’s the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s cyber.gov.au website and the ACSC’s partnership program, both of which come under the Australian Signals Directorate.

Yet far too few organisations take advantage of it.

The Partnership Program allows all Australian organisations from academia and cyber experts to businesses large and small to access technical expertise, intelligence and insights, nationwide collaboration opportunities and resilience-building activities.

There are fantastic tools like the “Essential Eight” to help organisations implement best-practice mitigation …

And the “Exercise in a Box” tool allows businesses and organisations to pick up and run in-house cyber training and assessment.

The ACSC offers technical advice and services to support you in protecting your networks from cyber security incidents and responding to cyber-attacks.

And the information you share 24/7 is treated confidentially.

If you’re not a member of the Partnership Program, why not?

No organisation can go it alone in an interconnected world, and trust is critical.

I strongly encourage you all to sign up today and report any cyber incidents through cyber.gov.au.

Cyber security is a national priority that has the Government’s absolute focus.

We are developing a new cyber security strategy, setting an ambitious agenda out to 2030, and thinking about the future of cyber in Australia and the importance of partnerships and working together to get where we need to be. 

The cyber security challenge is magnified and intensified for Defence.

We face millions of cyberattacks every single day.

Attacks probe every network and every capability.

The integrity of our information and networks is paramount.

When we look out, we see State and non-state actors moving quickly to leverage new technologies and vulnerabilities…

Reflecting the evolving strategic competition across the globe.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the cyber threat globally and threat actors across the world continue to find innovative ways to deploy online attacks.

The ADF needs to be ‘ready to fight and win in the Digital Age’.

We need advanced technology to be ready to use and ready to deploy as soon as possible so that we can effectively deter threats against Australia and our national interests.

Defence personnel must be empowered to make better decisions more quickly, with cutting-edge communications and information systems.

And their enhanced connectivity must be matched by even stronger protection for Defence networks, as outlined in the Defence Cyber Security Strategy.

Universities like Charles Sturt, and the Defence personnel who study here, will play an important part in this effort.

Policy responsibility for Defence’s information and communications technology falls within my portfolio responsibilities as Assistant Minister for Defence.

I can assure you that I am prioritising cyber-security considerations in every decision I make.

As the ADF personnel who study here at Charles Sturt will tell you, Defence has an incredibly wide range of cyber roles on offer, from strategy and policy to cyber operations and cyber-security research.

But we are experiencing the same workforce shortages well understood by everyone in the ICT sector.

We need cyber security specialists in Navy, Army and Air Force.

We need them in the Australian Public Service within the Department of Defence and the Australian Signals Directorate.

There are many Emerging Talent Programs on offer across the Australian Government, like the Digital Graduate program which gives people the opportunity to further develop their skills while working for the Government.

Defence is a proud participant in this program, which offers exciting rotations and regional visits during the course of program.

Upon successful completion, participants are offered a permanent position within Defence. 

Another way that Defence is stepping up to build those skills for our own workforce needs - and to help bridge the wider skills shortage - is the ADF Cyber Gap Program.

I’m pleased to say there are a number of successful Cyber Gap graduates from Charles Sturt University.

The Program gives participants the chance to have a close look at the range of cyber opportunities available within Defence and the Australian Public Service.

And there’s no obligation to join the ADF at the end – so even if Defence doesn’t suit them, we can still support the development of Australia’s cyber security industry.

I know that other speakers will be talking about opportunities for indigenous and other diverse cohorts to work in the cyber security profession.

Increasing these opportunities is a vitally important goal across the profession, and across Defence.

Defence is committed to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation by offering a range of pathway programs for Indigenous Australians.

A Defence Force that represents the diversity of our country is a Defence Force that is stronger and better able to protect us all.

And that includes our cyber defences.

So if you are Indigenous…

If you are from a culturally and linguistically diverse background;

If you are someone with a disability;

If you are interested in working in cyber security, Defence is interested in you.

We’re also keen to make the most of the fantastic pool of talent and expertise in regional Australia.

That’s why Defence is increasingly moving to a geographically distributed workforce leveraging remote working arrangements…

And it’s looking to work with regional hubs on how to best draw on this talent pool to build the cyber security workforce.

So watch this space.

When it comes to cyber security, those in the regions are just as important – and just as vulnerable – as those in the cities.

The panel discussion offers a great opportunity to tackle some of the biggest issues in cyber today.

Government doesn’t have all the answers – and we recognise cyber security is a whole-of-nation endeavour – so I’m keen to hear from you about ideas and initiatives to tackle the cyber challenges all organisations face.

The Internet has helped Australia to conquer the tyranny of distance, to bring our ideas, products and services to the wider world.

Now it is up to us to help secure it, to ensure that all Australians can reap the benefits of these technologies while avoiding the threats and pitfalls.

Thank you.

ENDS

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