Budget 2018: Cybersecurity funding dovetails with national-security priorities

Less focus on specific cybersecurity development and more on data governance, crime-data exchange, STEM skills development

Although designed with an eye on the forthcoming election, when it comes to cybersecurity this year’s Budget has foregone the dramatic policy and investment allocations of recent years to focus on incremental programs that position cybersecurity within the broader national security narrative. Several allocations targeted specific [[xref:https://budget.gov.au/2018-19/content/overview.html |security-related capabilities]], such as the establishment of the Office of National Intelligence; funding for a Joint Capability Fund “enhancing co-ordination and co-operation between our domestic security and law enforcement agencies; $59.1 million for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s unified National Criminal Intelligence System, which will replace the Australian Criminal Intelligence Database; and a $70.2m augmentation to the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security that will see the government review Australia’s national security legislative framework. Better government security Security will play a part in the $130m upgrade to the ICT infrastructure of the Department of Home Affairs – which will include improvements in “visa processing, identity management and threat analysis, to better detect and prevent threats” – and will be among the capabilities marked for improvement as part of the Department of Health’s [[xref:http://www.health.gov.au/internet/budget/publishing.nsf/Content/budget2017-factsheet01.htm |Guaranteeing Medicare]] service optimisation and ICT overhaul program. Rupert Taylor-Price, founder and CEO of security service provider Vault Systems, was among those welcoming “the Federal Government’s support for more thorough cyber security protections for businesses that operate within Australia.” “As more data breaches are recorded in Australia and cyber criminals continue to target citizens and enterprise,” he said in a statement, “it is essential that the Federal Government hold businesses responsible for ensuring their customers and employees information is secure.” The government [[xref:https://budget.gov.au/2018-19/content/bp2/download/bp2_expense.pdf |will spend $9m]] to establish an Australian Parliament House Cyber Security Operations Centre, while cybersecurity is critical to the ongoing upgrade of ICT systems at the Bureau of Meteorology – which is undergoing an “improved security and resilience” in the wake of a [[xref:https://www.cso.com.au/article/590372/bom-hack-raises-spectre-nation-state-attacks-australian-targets/ |high-profile breach of that agency]] alleged to have been the work of Chinese government-sponsored hackers. Support for Budget STEM sell The education sector has responded strongly to a Budget focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) development, with a 10-year plan that will indirectly benefit cybersecurity if it succeeds in boosting the number of technically literate students – women, in particular – progressing through university degrees. That plan includes, among other things, a $1.9b investment in research infrastructure and the appointment of a Women in Science Ambassador who will formalise a strategy to boost women’s [[xref:http://www.science.gov.au/scienceGov/news/Pages/Pressing-ahead-for-womens-progress-in-STEM.aspx |involvement in STEM]] areas. Kylie Walker, CEO of Science & Technology Australia, was “pleased” by the investments but warned in a statement that “the future STEM workforce still requires attention – STEM graduate rates are threatened by continued capping of commonwealth support for undergraduate places at Australian Universities. Australia will need many more people equipped with STEM skills in our workforce to compete internationally.” University of Sydney professor Nalini Joshi was more sceptical, noting that Australia’s STEM participation rates are already one-sixth of OECD averages and that the budget contains “no action or stimulus to help meet this challenge”. “To have a future-proof progressive, technologically sophisticated society, Australia needs a workforce that is educated and trained to think logically, analytically and quantitatively,” she said. “A society with only a handful of mathematically trained workers cannot be expected to support the extraordinarily important developments expected in modern life such as precision medicine.” Promoting cybersecurity in its many forms The Budget also funds organisational changes such as the funding of a new National Data Commissioner (NDC) that will spearhead an investment in data governance and policy that was announced in the government’s [[xref:https://www.mhs.gov.au/media-releases/2018-05-01-government-response-productivity-commission-inquiry-data-availability-and-use |recent response]] to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into data availability and use. Responsibility for [[xref:https://cybersecuritystrategy.pmc.gov.au/ |cyber policy co-ordination]] and parts of national security policy and operations responsibilities will be transferred from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to the new [[xref:https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/ |Department of Home Affairs]. The government will provide $14.4m for “cybersecurity support” to Papua New Guinea for its hosting of the upcoming [[xref:https://www.apec2018png.org/ |APEC 2018 meeting]] – reflecting the accepted wisdom that high-profile [[xref:https://www.cso.com.au/article/633533/security-lessons-from-2018-pyeongchang-winter-olympics/ |political and cultural events]] are seen as prime targets for cybersecurity activity. In a change from recent years, industry development funding was scarce, with just $500,000 allocated over 4 years – enough for a single full-time employee who will be tasked with promoting Australia’s expertise in a range of “priority sectors” including cybersecurity and fintech. Far better funded was artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will be bolstered with a four-year, $29.9m funding injection that will strengthen local capabilities in an area that [[xref:https://www.cso.com.au/article/625107/soon-your-most-important-security-expert-won-t-person/ |touches on cybersecurity]] as well as other fields. Previous budgets more specifically addressed cybersecurity, with 2017’s allocations [[xref:https://www.cso.com.au/article/619114/budget-cybersecurity-allocations-welcomed-government-focuses-fixing-past-mistakes/ |focused on addressing]] significant cybersecurity shortcomings and 2016 [[xref:https://www.cso.com.au/article/599211/budget-cybersecurity-allocations-highlight-government-multi-faceted-defence-strategy/ |formalising]] the then-newly launched Cyber Security Strategy.

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Tags data governanceSTEMcyersecurity

More about APECAustraliaBureau of MeteorologyDepartment of HealthFederal GovernmentHomeNDCOECDProductivity CommissionTechnologyUniversity of SydneyVault Systems

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