Dan Tehan, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Affairs, talks about the ASPI report into how the government is doing tackling its cybersecurity reform agenda
Ross Greenwood: Welcome back to Money News right around the country. Great to have your company. Of course, also tonight, there is the State of Origin Queensland, New South Wales in Rugby League. The big battle taking place, Suncorp Stadium in Queensland tonight. Now, this is going to be interesting because a lot of the Melbourne’s Storm stars that have dominated that team, the Queensland Maroons, over a period of time that have been so successful, they’re retired or they’re missing; Billy Slater being the key of one of them. Of course, some people raising now question marks as to where the Maroons can get over the top of the New South Wales team, the Blues, tonight. But anyway, that will all be coming up into the future.
I want to take to something else. The commissioner of Australian Federal Police today, Andrew Colvin, spoke at the National Press Club where indicated that cyber hacking is one of the greatest threats that we face today. Here’s just a little of what he said.
Andrew Colvin: When I started my policing career 27 years ago, internet crimes involving hacking, malicious viruses, money laundering, scams, online trafficking in goods and people, cyber stalking, cyber terrorism, they simply didn’t exist. It wasn’t something that we learned about. It’s truly one of the biggest asymmetric threats we face today. Not only can it be accompanied by anywhere in the world, the blurred lines of attribution between criminal, commercial and even state, make this a genuinely wicked problem.
Ross: It’s a really important thing for many businesses, for households, for so many people. It’s almost an underestimated threat that can really challenge us. If you consider some of the problems we’ve had, the national census is one, the Australian Tax Office with the outages it’s had, even the National Australia Bank today. It’s an important one. But there’s one thing also that Andrew Calvin said today and that was Australia, the world, business, you and I are always going to be playing catch up.
Andrew Colvin : To some degree, we will always be playing catch up the rapid developments in this space. But the reality is, without changing our own methodology and accepting with that with that comes risk, we’ll never even get close to keeping up. Technology presents challenges to governments like almost never before. It’s a realm that we cannot simply legislate or regulate to control. We must work with the industry who have their hands on the levers. We must and invariably have to work with the private sector.
Ross: Based on the attacks even in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the ransomware attacks, the Prime Minister today met with the bosses of major telecommunications and internet companies to try and work out how Australia can be protected. Well, the minister assisting the Prime Minister on cyber security is Dan Tehan. He’s held that round table, and he’s on the line right now. Many thanks for your time, Dan.
Interview with Dan Tehan – How to Tackle Cyber Security
Dan Tehan: Pleasure, Ross. How are you?
Ross: Very well, thank you. Look, you say that the threat from cyber criminals is potentially worth at least a billion dollars a year. That’s directly coming out of the pockets of families and businesses. It’s a serious threat, and the problem is it’s growing.
Dan Tehan : It is a serious threat, and it’s one the government is taking incredibly seriously. We’re the first government to put in place a fully funded cyber security strategy. Today was all about making sure that government and business understand how important it is that we work together to combat this threat.
Ross: Is there much that individuals or businesses can do? Where does the government’s action start and stop? Where does the individual’s personal responsibility or the company’s personal responsibility begin? Because quite clearly, ultimately, you’ve got to project yourself against these threats.
Dan Tehan : You do. Each of us have a responsibility to be doing what we need to keep ourselves cyber secure, but there is a role for government and there is a role for business. This is one of the things that we were discussing this afternoon. Because are there measures that companies can take? Whether they be telecommunications companies, or internet service provider companies. Or are there things that government can do to help businesses, moms and dads, families, individuals in combating cyber crime. This was the key reason we brought everyone together because we want to explore what measures we can potentially put in place to help people to be able to deal with this threat.
Ross: You would have been around the place and been aware of Senator John McCain, and the warnings that he’s given early this week in regards to the influence of Russia seeking to exert on political elections in other parts of the world. From that point of view, can we take it that cyber espionage is also a significant problem that could try to influence the outcomes of elections to perhaps an individual countries own ends?
Dan Tehan : Cyber espionage is alive and well. We’ve seen that in the US presidential election. We’ve seen it in the French election, which has just taken place. I was over in Europe three weeks ago. I met with both the National Cyber Security Center in the UK. As you know, they’re currently going through an election campaign. And before the French Presidential election, I met with the French National Cyber Security Centre. This was something which was exercising their minds. The French President has come out just recently and said that Russia did try to influence the outcome of their election.
You’ll be aware that the Prime Minister here in Australia called all the political parties and political leaders together in the cabinet room at the beginning of the year. We outlined the threat in this area to them and said that the government wanted to work with our political parties to make sure that we could minimize the impact of such things occurring here. This is something that we are continuing to work on because as we’ve seen in the United States Presidential elections and in the French Presidential elections, this threat is a live one.
Ross: In other words, this is not just a commercial threat to Australia and to other parts of the world, but it is also a political risk. In other words, political influence could change the course of policy, could change the course of even our own security and level of security depending on who’s got more policy coming into the next election.
Dan Tehan : Absolutely. Behind from what we’ve seen with the US and French elections was to disrupt but also to attempt to discredit democratic processes. Now, this should be a wake-up call to all of us. Because as you know, Ross, democracy goes to the heart of who we are as a nation, of who we are as a people. We have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our democratic systems.
We’ve got a Five Eyes network internationally, where we work with the US, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK on these issues. This is something that we will continue to monitor, and continue to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our democracy safe here in Australia.
Ross: Just thinking a little outside the square, Dan, that is given the fact that we currently when we go to the ballot box have paper-based elections. I’m presuming that is a relatively safe way to hold our elections because at least external parties could not attempt to subvert our election process. We can already see that the disruption that can be caused when the census is disrupted, that would be a fundamental problem. Would that encourage the government, say for example, and maybe you giving advice here, to maintain the current paper-based voting systems that Australia’s seen for many years?
Dan Tehan : Well, there’s no moves at the moment to change it, and you are right. One of the things that is very secure in terms of our voting systems is the fact that we use paper and pencil. It could well very be that if there was discussions about whether we wanted to move to electronic voting or not, this would have to be central to that discussion. It could be the decision to say, “No, let’s stick with the existing system because ultimately it’s more secure”.
Ross: Tell you what Tehan, really interesting. Good to have you on the program. Dan Tehan is the minister assisting the Prime Minister in cyber security and the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs. In regards to this issue of cyber security, it is a live and active threat here in Australia; potentially could affect the economy, even our political voting system. That’s how serious this is. Dan Tehan, we appreciate your time here on our program this evening.
Dan Tehan : Been a pleasure, Ross. Thanks very much.
Ross: Dan Tehan there. We’ll take your calls also on the program, 131 873. A little bit later on, I want to tell you about something else that is the government, I told you last night, is contemplating giving out laptops or even maybe iPads to all journalists going into the federal budget lock-up, that’s when they look everybody up. That’s after a big leak this year. Well, we now understand that the corporate regulator and cop ASIC, Australian Securities Investments Commission, is going to try to go after the source of the leak about the bank levy on the day of the budget. Tell you about that and plenty more coming up here on Money News.