Despite $1.46b furphy, 2013-14 Budget offers slim pickings for cyber security

Months on from the government’s bold PR initiative in which it said it would spend $1.46 billion on IT security, the release of the 2013-14 federal budget has shown little additional financial support for this and other cyber security initiatives.

Announced earlier this year, the cyber security policy was welcomed by IT security industry figures, but Budget expense itemisation papers confirm that the exercise is primarily a reshuffling of existing resources: the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) will “co-locate existing capabilities for cyber defence and facilitate improved industry access to Australia’s cyber security practitioners”.

This will involve combining cyber-security capabilities from the Department of Defence, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Federal Police, Attorney-General’s Department, and Australian Crime Commission, with costs to be met “from within the existing resources of contributing agencies”.

Although the budget specified $7.1m in support to provide additional security capabilities for the Australian Defence Force to boost security for the Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit – in Brisbane, in November – that commitment did not involve explicit commitments to cyber security.

Given the recent and continuing surge in hacktivist attacks against targets like the Australian Parliament House and US Department of Homeland Security, cyber security protection will likely be an important element of the overall security posture for the event.

Consolidation of diverse cyber security interests into the ACSC may see that centre involved in such protection – becoming one of the first big tests for the new initiative.

The budget wasn’t entirely without IT-related measures. For example, Attorney-General’s Office funding of $16.1m over four years, including $8.2m in capital funding over the next year, will support the establishment of a new data centre for the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

Some $8.4m of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and Department of Immigration and Citizenship funding will be directed to a trial of automated border processing technology at airports, which is certain to have a strong IT and security component.

Broadly, however, there were few mentions of IT security initiatives, new or old, within the budget. The only item specifically mentioning cyber-safety was buried in amongst commitments to support the ABC, SBS and national broadband network (NBN): an expense item labelled ‘cyber-safety enhancement’ is listed as providing a $4.5m savings over three years “from the cyber-safety enhancement program by not proceeding with mandatory filtering legislation”. Instead, Internet service providers are being forced to filter a “worst of” list maintained by Interpol.

This policy has been in place for some time and replaces an earlier envisioned content filter that would block child pornography and other online materials. Its recent axing marked the end of several controversial years for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who led the project with a $125.8m budget allocation announced in 2008.

Tags Attorney-General's DepartmentDepartment of Defence (DoD)cyber secuirty intiativesACSC(Australian Cyber Security Centre)Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

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