January 23, 2013

Australia, UK to tackle cyber threat

PUBLISHED: 16 JAN 2013 20:11:00 | UPDATED: 17 JAN 2013 08:46:42

Australia and the UK will commit to closer co-operation on cyber security amid alarming growth in attacks on government and business systems.

Annual ministerial talks involving Foreign Minister Bob Carr, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond will be held in Perth on Friday.

Among other topics to be discussed are Fiji’s stumbling efforts to restore democracy, Afghanistan, Australia’s United Nations Security Council push to ensure protection of medical personnel and supplies in Syria, co-operation on defence equipment purchases and the joint operation of diplomatic posts.

Support for the French intervention against Islamist forces in Mali, which Senator Carr warned on Wednesday risked becoming a terrorist haven like Afghanistan, is also expected to be discussed. Mr Hague told New Zealand’s TV3 yesterday that the UK was increasingly looking to work more closely with countries like Australia and New Zealand to help counter the growing cyber threat.

Mr Hague has previously conceded government and business in the UK is attacked every hour and that losses can be great. The menace had the potential to undermine Britain’s security and international competitiveness, he said.

UK intelligence sources suggested in October that British government and private sector websites were being targeted by up to 1000 cyber attacks every hour.

Australia and the UK have beefed up their cyber defences through the establishment of dedicated centres to deal with attacks and provide intelligence and support to the private sector.

States such as China and Russia, cyber criminals and hackers have all been blamed for launching increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Mr Hague is also expected to raise with Senator Carr his proposal for the UK and Australia to open joint diplomatic missions as a way of extending both countries’ diplomatic reach to more countries and stretch straitened government budgets.

Mr Hague said the UK also shared Australian and New Zealand concerns that Fiji be returned to democracy in a timely fashion.

Senator Carr confirmed Wednesday evening that Fijian interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s stuttering efforts to restore democracy were likely to be discussed at the Australia- UK ministerial talks.

Fiji remains suspended from the Commonwealth after the coup Commodore Bainimarama staged in 2006.

Though Commodore Bainimarama has pledged to hold democratic elections in 2014, the Fiji government has proposed a decree restricting union leaders and other public officers from founding political parties and imposing other onerous conditions on political party formation.

“Fiji’s transition to democracy must enshrine human rights protections, media freedoms, judicial independence and parliamentary checks and balances,’’ Senator Carr said.

“We all want to see a Fijian democratic constitution developed which will put the country beyond the culture of coups.”

Commodore Bainimarama has also come under fire for expelling an International Labour Organisation delegation and proposing a redraft of a new constitution.

The Australian Financial Review

No comments: