Finance moves to replace Parliament's secure comms backbone

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Finance moves to replace Parliament's secure comms backbone

Network used for secret transmissions.

The Department of Finance is set to rip and replace the comms backbone used by ministers to securely communicate with other ministers and agencies within Parliament House.

Documents released to industry late last week reveal the ageing ministerial communications network (MCN) fibre optic cabling backbone will be junked in favour of new infrastructure.

The MCN is a closed network that provides ministers and parliamentary secretaries with secure voice and video communication, as well as document transfer, with their departments up to the secret security classification.

The new backbone and associated infrastructure is expected to connect to parliamentarian suites via new “multi-fibre push on (MPO) cabling”, though this work will be carried out under a future stage.

“The backbone cabling is the first of a two-part cable remediation of the APH [Australian Parliament House]; the recabling of all the parliamentarian suites will be undertaken at a future time to be determined and will not form part of the APH project scope,” tender documents state.

Finance’s government network service branch envisions that “all new cables will be single mode optic fibre”, a type of cable that is typically used for long distance applications.

It will give the chosen cabling supplier a short turnaround to supply and install the new infrastructure and intermediate distribution frames, with the work expected to be complete 12 months after the contract is awarded.

The chosen supplier will also be responsible for decommissioning and disposing of existing cabling and associate infrastructure.

The cabling replacement projects comes four months after Parliament House suffered a malicious attack against its parliamentary computing network, though this appears unrelated.

The security breach, which is said to have exfiltrated only non-sensitive data, forced the Department of Parliamentary Services to reset the passwords of some 4000 network users.

The Australian Signals Directorate is yet to attribute the security breach to a state-sponsored actor.

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