On Tuesday 23 October, Dr Tobias Feakin, Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for Cyber Affairs (Ambassador) stepped off a plane from New York, set aside his jet-lag and managed to give a passionate speech to a diverse CEDA audience to mark one year anniversary of Australia’s International Cyber Engagement Strategy (Strategy).
The Strategy sets an ambitious agenda across the full spectrum of cyber affairs. It covers six key chapters:
- Digital Trade;
- Cyber Security;
- Cyber Crime;
- International Security & Cyber Space;
- Internet governance & Cooperation;
- Human rights & democracy online;
- Technology for development; and
- Comprehensive and coordinated cyber affairs.
The Ambassador made crystal clear that once seen as a merely a technical, niche issue, cyber affairs now encompasses a broad range of strategic and international policy issues. In a nutshell, it’s also the PM job to care about the nation’s cyber affairs.
He confirmed that Australia’s international cyber engagement as outlined in the Strategy “protects Australians and promotes our interests… It positions us to harness opportunities and increase our cyber resilience”.
The Ambassador explained that cyber affairs was very much a “team sport and a shared challenge.” The Strategy, aims to provide an open and transparent blueprint setting out Australia’s vision of an open, free and secure cyberspace and how those ambitions will be implemented across the broad spectrum of cyber affairs issues by taking a ‘multifaceted’ approach, including to uplift the skills and capacity of our regional neighbours.
While noting the role Australia has to play in educating other countries in the region, the Ambassador was quick to point out and praise the developments occurring in Indonesia. He specifically flagging it as a country to watch in terms of innovation and development. While not detailing specific projects, he described the advancements in Indonesia as “something special” and a country which Australia should be keenly learning from. He cautioned that should Australia ignore the Indonesia opportunity, it would miss out on getting involved “on the ground floor”.
The Ambassador spoke about the rapid pace of change in Cyber affairs and how it was necessary to constantly review, evaluate ‘tweak and adjust’ the Strategy in response to change.
While the Strategy outlines Australia’s whole of government national approach to cyber affairs, there are some key themes and lessons from both the Strategy and the Ambassador’s speech that can be applied to any organisation considering its cyber affairs.
- Is your organisation taking a resilience approach to cyber issues;
- Has your organisation undergone the culture shift from seeing cyber issues a merely a niche technical issue to a broad and strategic area which requires oversight and engagement from the very top management and the broad?
- Are cyber affairs a “team sport and shared challenge” in your organisation? Do you ensure that you implement a “whole of business” and “cyber by design” approach by consulting with the relevant internal and external stakeholders.
- Do you regularly review your cyber strategy to “tweak and adjust” it in response to change?
If you are a regular reader of the TechKnowChat blog, none of these concepts or themes should be a revelation. In fact we have been discussing the importance of taking a resilience approach for some time. The Strategy and the Ambassadors comments simply confirm the present world order for cyber affairs. The harsh reality is that organisations which are not implementing these measures are simply likely to be left behind or may suffer greatly in the event of a cyber incident.
|Sonia Sharma | Special Counsel
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