Malcom Shore: Cyber security is now mainstream diplomacy, but who are you going to call?

Speaking at the CSO Perspectives Roadshow in Sydney on Tuesday, Malcolm Shore, principal security officer for the NBN Co, talked delegates through the NBN’s introduction of a Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) – an achievement for a security team that only came into existing in early 2012.

Shore also took the opportunity to reflect more broadly on cyber security’s rise as a concern of government – and in particular, as a concern of governments working together internationally.

Across the world, says Shore, cyber security has been tackled at a co-ordinated government level since early this century, but surprisingly, it wasn’t America that generated the first cyber security strategy, it was Russia. “The US came in 2003, the UK and Australia after that (in 2009) still relatively early in the piece, and since then, lots of other countries have issued cyber security policies,” he says.

“Since then, we’ve progressed through regional strategies such as the APEC Cyber Security Strategy, the ASEAN Regional Forum issued a strategy in 2010, and Europe has also issued its guidance. It’s now 2013, so for the US, it’s now ten years on and we’re still talking about it. It seems to me the US hasn’t succeeded in securing cyber space.”

Our old approaches to co-ordinating cyber security haven’t worked, he says. So we’re now beginning to redefining the role of cyber security and cyber space. Cyber security is no longer just an interesting technical issue, “it has become a real core part of international diplomacy”, says Shore.

His comments follow his attendance at the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace 2013, where he attended as part of the Australian delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. The conference was the third in a series of forums founded in London in 2011 in order to establish a minimum common ground across countries on cyber crime, international security and the social benefits of the internet.

“It’s interesting to see that cyber security is now a key pillar of diplomacy,” says Shore. “It really emerged in Seoul.”

Shore points to the speech by the UK’s foreign minister William Hague as an example. “The UK’s position at the conference was not a presentation to the audience; it was a statesman’s address. It was ‘we’ll fight them on the beaches’– it was a statement for posterity.”

In Hague’s speech, he describes a divide in the international community, with countries like the UK and (interestingly) Korea, fighting for an open, borderless Internet benefiting from the collective oversight of governments, international organisations, industry on civil society. On the other side he decries countries as calling for an international legal framework through which governments could exercise exclusive control over the internet’s content and resources.

Some of the comments from other countries were interesting, says Shore, citing the Chinese’s example as logical to a fault. “They have no problem at all with everyone else having an open Internet.”

Shore also describes how the themes evident at the Seoul conference have evolved on what was in the early strategies, such as the US’s in 2003.

“If you go back to the priorities of the US strategies for security in cyber space and then look at the themes of the Seoul framework – they’re quite different. The focus now is on economic growth and development, on social and cultural benefits, on cyber security, on international security, on cyber crime, and a new topic – capacity building.”

The framework outlined in Seoul has been adopted by countries including Australia, but with so few cyber security experts for a very large demand, Shore says capacity building is going to be a key theme.

And even this will be a challenge for global co-ordination. Shore quotes an “understatement of the year” by Afghanistan’s representative who point out that it’s “a bit harder for Afghanistan to do cyber security capacity building than most other countries”.

And where capacity building might mean one thing to the UK, others inevitably see it differently. Shore also quotes Ghana’s “unbridled pragmatism” as, “We [Ghana] haven’t signed the Budapest Convention [on cyber crime] we will make our own laws. One challenge for us is that our young people learn how to use the Internet, then they learn how to make money from Sakawa [Nigerian fraud]."

With cyber security now on the centre stage of international diplomacy, and many delicate issues yet to be overcome, further agreement such as who should lead coordinated responses to events have also begun to be raised.

Think about what that means to you, as well as to Australia, says shore. “Do we want to have a United Nations driven cyber security agenda or do we want it to be a more collegial Asia Pacific CERT?”

So what does it mean for all of us? “Who are you going to call when you find a problem in your infrastructure? What are you going to do?” asks Shore.

“Not the government. The government is not there to defend cyberspace. It’s up to every one of us (in the security industry). It’s the critical infrastructure. It’s the food chains, it’s the pharmaceuticals, it’s the finance sector. We are all suddenly mainstream in the diplomatic arena.”

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