Australia stands unprepared for a cyber war, according to the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS), ABC News reported. The organization warned that Australian government and civilian sectors are far behind the U.S. and China, which have taken significant measures to prepare for cyber war.
The report called for a “rapid catch-up” in Australian military security capabilities in the information age. Professor Greg Austin, who released the report, described the country’s response to cyberspace threats as “slow and fragmented.”
Vulnerable To Cyber Attack
Another ACCS report noted the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has failed to sufficiently test its ability to thwart cyber attacks on its weapons systems. It further noted that support from the U.S., which Australia has depended on for security for the past 60 years, would be limited in the area of cyber warfare. This limitation holds true despite the fact that Australia participates in the Five Eye intelligence alliance.
Austin said the reliance on the U.S. for extended deterrence would not have the same impact in cyberspace as for kinetic operations.
There has been a public debate about the country’s naval, ground and air capabilities, Austin said, but no government initiative to benchmark national security needs in cyber space.
Australia is unprepared for “medium intensity war” that would involve a sophisticated cyber attack, the report said.
A Call For Public Debate
An open, public debate is needed on the security, military and civil requirements in cyber space and how well the country’s capabilities meet those needs, the report said.
Another ACCS study warned the ADF has to do more to make sure its weapons systems can sustain a cyber attack. Authored by Group Captain Keith Joiner of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), the report said the country’s readiness was about six years behind the U.S.
As a result, Dr. Joiner said the ADF will likely not be aware of the operational vulnerabilities of its major complex systems and platforms to cyber attack.
The report called for improved funding to allow the ADF to conduct cyber survivability tests. It said the ADF must provide the same attention to evaluating and testing the vulnerability to cyber attacks of its legacy systems as it provides to conventional threats.
The federal government is preparing to release its defense white paper in the coming months.
China Could Surpass Australia
Austin’s study cited the risk of China surpassing Australia in its defenses against cyber attacks, a development that might be too late to prevent. Within 20 years, China’s military, economic and civil capabilities in cyberspace will likely far surpass Australia’s. Today, both countries can be viewed as laggards.
Australia must prepare to respond to the impact of Beijing’s stronger commitment of the past 15 years to change through military cyber science and technology in comparison to the Australian government’s commitment in key areas of policy.
Austin suggested Australia follow China’s path and give its reservists cyber warfare training. China is well placed to develop the best organized and most powerful cyber militias in the world, he said. “It does not now have such a strong capability, but it has taken steps along this path.”
Austin called for a national innovation strategy and a blueprint for cyber survivability in the event of a military confrontation with a major power.
He further recommended more investment in education and IT to encourage more graduates in the cyber warfare field.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has committed to innovation.
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