Australia's inaugural cyber engagement strategy will see the federal government pursue a coordinated approach to reinforcing cyber resilience with its international partners, placing a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop today launched the strategy and action plan to govern Australia’s international cyber affairs agenda over the next three years.
The plan is supported by an additional $10 million over three years under the government's cyber cooperation program.
It establishes a whole-of-government approach to cyber affairs spanning seven key themes: digital trade, cyber security, cybercrime, international security, internet governance and cooperation, human rights and democracy online, and technology for development.
The strategy overwhelmingly focuses on the Indo-Pacific region, and will see Australia work with its Pacific neighbours to shore up cyber resilience through the creation of a Pacific Cyber Security Operational Network (PaCSON) that will house technical experts from across the region to coordinate responses to cyber security incidents.
It will also see the government continue to deliver cybercrime awareness training through the Cyber Safety Pasifika (CSP) program run by the Australian Federal Police, and look to develop a framework to exchange policy and diplomatic contacts in times of crisis.
“Collectively, our region is only as resilient as our weakest link,” the strategy states.
“Cybercriminals look to exploit the vulnerabilities of states in the early stages of developing the legislative and technical capabilities needed to fight cybercrime.
"As our neighbours become more connected, Australia will partner to build their technical, legislative and institutional capacity to fight cybercrime.”
The strategy advocates Australia’s position for an “open, free and secure cyberspace” through multi-stakeholder governance of the internet, which it plans to use to maximise the opportunities of to achieve “economic growth and prosperity through digital trade”.
“Better multi-stakeholder cooperation domestically, regionally and internationally will preserve decentralised control of the internet, allowing all voices to be heard when decisions over the policy and technical management of the Internet are made.
“A state-centred model of Internet governance would restrict and fragment the network, inhibit innovation and constrain the enormous potential of the Internet.
"States should resist policy responses that put at risk an open, free and secure cyberspace."
Australia also plans to work its international partners outside the Indo-Pacific, including both governments and the private sector, to develop a strong cyber security posture through strengthening and expanding strategic links with international cyber security information sharing partners and a network of CERTs.
It also plans to translate the Australian Signals Directorate’s Essential Eight mitigation strategies into the official languages of the 10 ASEAN member states.
The strategy also points to cyberspace as a “new arena in which a state can exert influence” or challenge the international rules-based order, with Bishop directly mentioning attempts by foreign cyber attackers to influence the outcome of last year’s US election.
“Like many others, Australia is concerned by the increased willingness of states and non-state actors to pursue their objectives by undertaking malicious cyber activities contrary to international law and identified norms of responsible state behaviour,” the strategy said.
“We will guard against attempts to use such measures to interfere in Australia's domestic affairs or undermine our institutions.
"More broadly, Australia will cooperate with international partners to deter and respond to malicious cyber activity that endangers international peace, security and stability.”
The government will also look to support trade conducted electronically, including using emerging technologies such as blockchain to enable trade and reduce costs, and maximising opportunities for international digital trade through the forthcoming digital economy strategy update.