NEW DELHI: Amid growing global concerns around the digital world, Australia has appointed a dedicated cyber security minister portfolio in its federal government and become the first country among the G20 nations to have such a dedicated portfolio for monitoring and regulating online activities.
The G20 is an international forum comprising Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
The international forum works to address major issues related to the global economy and sustainable development.
Soon after Anthony Albanese took over as the new prime minister of Australia in May, he announced that his government will have a dedicated portfolio for cyber security and selected Claire O’Neil as the first minister for the job.
According to reports, it was Australia’s former home minister Karen Andrews who was instrumental in carving out this new portfolio amid a growing world-wide concern for cyber security. Andrews charted out the key roles and duties that the new ministry will have under Claire O’Neil.
Prime Minister Albanese had made it clear that he would have a separate cyber security ministry in the run-up to the elections in which his Labor Party defeated Scott Morison’s conservative government.
The details of the new cyber ministry of Australia are yet to be unveiled as they are matters linked to the budged of the just-formed government, the reports stated.
As far as Claire O’Neil’s job is concerned as a minister, she had previously gained prominence as Australia’s “Shadow Minister’ for Innovation Technology and Future Work.
She has education in history, law and public policy besides work experience in consulting McKinsey & Company, among others. Experts believe having her in the role for cyber security will bode well for Australia considering her multidisciplinary approach towards work in the past.
Growing Risk In Cyber Paradigm
Australian Cyber Security Centre states that there has been a 13% rise in cybercrime reports in the 2020-21 financial year as compared to the previous year.
The situation is so alarming that with some 67,500 reports, one incident is reported every eight minutes in the country.
Self-reported losses of more than A$33 billion (USD 22.92 billion) with more than a quarter of incidents related to critical infrastructure. And, every year these counts are increasing, according to reports.
The rise in cyber security budget is low from previous years and Australia is taking these signals seriously.
The allocated funds increase from $230 million in 2016 to $1.67 billion in 2020 and it rises to $9.9 billion in this budget.
This has been accompanied by many policy changes. Between the duration of December 2021 to April 2022, the previous government focused on strengthening the Security of Critical Infrastructure regime in two phases. In the initial phase, it expanded the definition of critical infrastructures from 4 to 11 sectors.
It also introduced positive security obligations like mandatory cyber incident reports with specific entities in the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the expanded provision of information towards the Register of Critical Infrastructure Assets.
This register helps the government to trace the ownership of the cyber infrastructure along with other crucial information.
It also featured government aid to the industry as a last resort in cyber issues. This allows the Secretary of Home Affairs to direct an impacted entity to take certain actions in response to an incident.
In the second phase, it increased cyber security duties for the country’s most vital assets, or “systems of national significance,” and made risk management programmes mandatory for them.
The new government has yet to state whether it will support new cyber security measures or modify existing ones.
Game Changer Decision
Experts believe that the appointment of a full-time dedicated cyber security minister will go a long way in Australia’s commitment towards cyber safety.
The decision to have a separate portfolio illustrates the significance cyber security holds for the peninsula nation and that a government also prioritises the sector.
It may also boost Australia’s position in the Asia-Pacific cyber landscape, as well as in reaction to potential threats from the Ukraine war, according to reports.
Second, the newly appointed minister is a woman, in keeping with Albanese’s aim to promote gender balance in the government. This is a strong signal in the area of cyber security.
In 2018, the percentage of female cyber professionals in Australia was 25%. This is higher than in the majority of countries, yet it is still far from balanced.
There are various reasons why women are underrepresented in cyberspace. Gender-based discrimination, stereotype biases, income inequalities, challenges with perceived self-efficacy, and a dearth of female role models are among them, the reports stated.
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