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Federal Gov Want Unilateral Emergency Internet Access, Telstra Warns

Telstra is opposing the Federal Government’s suggestion of increasing its own powers granting it unilateral access to the internet for the purpose of responding to ‘national emergencies’, instead the national Telco is pushing for a joint agreement solution for an expedient and transparent cyber response.

The opposition by Telstra comes following the release of a September discussion paper hinting at a change in legislation that would allow cybersecurity agencies to take direct action without the permission of network owners.

Telstra’s public submission to Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy pushes for ‘evidence-based public policy that is grounded in a fundamental understanding of both technology and threat,’ believing unilateral intervention by the Federal Government, independent of telecommunication companies, is not enough to prevent or address cyber attacks.

Instead, Telstra has provided five critical recommendations for cybersecurity response, suggesting:

  1. Joint assessment of the cyber threat environment
  2. Strategic government-industry partnerships
  3. Operational government-industry partnerships
  4. Co-operation in policy to maintain transparency
  5. Building enterprise and skills, influencing behavioural change

Current legislative frameworks permit the government to take direct action only to prevent or respond to cybersecurity incidents with the permission of network owners.

The government is instead arguing for unilateral access, claiming the process ‘takes time and gives malicious actors an advantage’.

‘In national emergency situations, it may be appropriate for government agencies to take swifter action’.

Telstra’s approach seems to be one of preemptive action rather than reactionary, stating ‘industry can complement government expertise with its understanding of the complexities involved’.

‘Industry and government should explore options together and agree on the most effective solutions to proactively identify cyber risks’.

To do this, Telstra wants the government to restore the annual cybersecurity leaders, last held in 2017.

‘These meetings provided ministers with front-line insights on key cybersecurity issues and opportunities for greater collaboration’.

Telstra believes an ASX 100 cyber health check would be worthwhile ‘to assess progress in the cyber maturity of Australia’s largest organisations’.

It comes following Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s suggestion of a voluntary code that will require companies to develop a ‘vulnerability disclosure policy.’

Covered by ChannelNews, the proposal laid out by Mr Dutton is a draft code of practice to make systems more secure and resilient to outages.

‘The safety of Australians and the security of our economy is paramount,’ said Mr Dutton, clearly linking safety concerns to the economic health, rather than the safety and security of users.

In fact, according to a report released by research firm Security in Depth since February last year, there has been a 700% increase in cyberattacks against Australian businesses resulting in a national cost of $7.8 billion.

While this is a large sum of money, it does little to represent the effects cybercrime has on individual Australian’s affected by fraud and other digital deviousness. 


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