One of the biggest contributing factors to the growth of nationalism in Australia is fear of terrorism and infiltration by extremist groups. Australians have been at odds with the government over its policies on asylum seekers arriving on boat, the growing influx of migrants from Islamic countries and the rising influence of China over the South China Seas.
But according to an expert in cyber security, these elements are not the main security threats to Australia’s national wellbeing as well as those of their regional counterparts.
Professor Greg Austin from the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales Canberra and a professorial fellow at the EastWest Institute believes Australia has lagged behind in cyber security but has been investing heavily to catch up with the rest of the world.
In his chapter on “Cyber Security” for a report published by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, Austin writes that Australia has steadily grown vulnerable to hacking, economic blackmail and other forms of cyber terrorism similar to the ones allegedly used by Russia on other countries.
Austin shares his opinion that politicians pulled back on allocating more resources on cyber security because the subject matter is “more difficult to understand and explain and are thus, less attractive to politicians and the media.”
However while Australia has fallen back, Austin is confident the nation can catch up and in fact, the delay may have been a blessing in disguise:
“The military shake-up comes two decades late, and the country faces some security penalties because of the delay. Ironically, the country also stands to gain from the delay as related technologies have moved very rapidly. What once seemed like a discrete sub-sector in the civil economy (cyber security) has now become transformative of national defence as it blends into other technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence, including exploiting of big data and high-performance computing.”
Austin presents a scenario whereby the United States and China would move to disable the military and civilian cyber technologies of adversarial nations if war erupted. If this happens, Australia would face challenges that would be “almost insurmountable”.
Despite the challenges, Austin is of the opinion that with the government’s recent moves to invest more in cyber security, the industry should be regarded as a new growth sector. In the report, Austin cites that as of now, Australia does not have the technology or the capabilities as other countries.
Already governments in Victoria and the Commonwealth have been taking steps to attract companies that specialise in civilian cyber security. This could be the best way in building the industry and enhancing the nation’s overall capability.