Govt plans year-end launch for cyber security centre

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Govt plans year-end launch for cyber security centre
The new Ben Chifley building in Canberra.

Will house CERT Australia, CSOC.

The federal government’s long-awaited Australian Cyber Security Centre will be fully operational in late 2014 - almost two years after it was first announced.

The launch of the centre has been held up by the delayed $630 million build of new headquarters for ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation).

In January 2013, the former Gillard government announced it would create a cyber security coordination hub that would co-locate staff from a number of defence, security and legal agencies. It was scheduled to be opened before the end of 2013.

But the opening of the centre was set back due to “significant challenges” faced by the construction of the new building in which the centre was to be housed.

The new ASIO headquarters in Canberra, named the Ben Chifley building, will finish $170 million over budget and almost two years behind schedule when it opens later this year.

The spy agency has previously conceded encountering difficulties with a handful of subcontractors over payments, and struggling with the complexity of the building management and security systems required to house high-security operations.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre - which relies on officers being in the same physical environment under the co-location model - has subsequently not been able to open.

Once operational, the Australian Cyber Security Centre will subsume the existing Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) -  currently located within the Australian Signals Directorate in Canberra’s Russell Office precinct - and will also house the national computer emergency response team, CERT Australia.

The CSOC, which launched in 2010, employs 130 officers from agencies across government - primarily Defence staff - and is focused on protecting government networks.

The ACSC will house around 300 officers by 2017, approximately 219 of which will be provided by the Australian Signals Directorate. It is the “next evolution of Australia’s cyber security capability”, a Defence spokesperson told iTnews.

ASD cyber and information security boss Major General Stephen Day has previously been announced as the centre’s first coordinator.

Beyond the existing capabilities of the CSOC and CERT Australia, the ACSC will co-locate with those cybercrime and espionage-related functions currently within the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and ASIO.

“The ACSC will analyse the nature and extent of cyber threats, and lead the Government’s operational response to cyber incidents. It is the Australian Government’s core approach to national cyber resilience and will raise awareness of cyber security and encourage reporting of cyber security incidents,” a Defence spokesperson said in a statement.

Neither the Gillard nor Abbott governments have committed funding to the centre.

It will instead be funded from within existing agency resources, with Defence contributing the lion’s share at 73 percent and the Attorney-General’s department chipping in 27 percent. Defence has projected funding for the centre until 2030, the agency said, but declined to provide further details on its cost.

Defence assistant secretary on cyber security Joe Franzi last month called the ACSC “the brightest light on our horizon”.

“For some years now, various parts of the Australian Government have been growing independent cyber security capabilities. This is understandable when a new phenomenon, such as cyber, confronts a government,” he told congregates at the CeBit conference in Sydney.

“But in doing so our resources were separated, and therefore have not been as efficient as they could be. And with this separation there has been some confusion about who to call, whether you are from government or industry, when you have a cyber security issue.

“In recognition of these circumstances, the government decided to locate our key cyber security capabilities in the one facility and establish the Australian Cyber Security Centre.”

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