NSW govt blasted for failing councils on cyber security

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NSW govt blasted for failing councils on cyber security

'A complete lack of support'.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has criticised the state government for failing to provide councils with adequate support to address increasing cyber security threats.

In a submission to NSW’s inquiry into cyber security, the peak body said there had been a “complete lack” of support for IT security in recent years, despite the sector providing vital infrastructure.

"The NSW local government sector is responsible for the provision of a wide range of essential infrastructure and services and manages infrastructure and land assets worth more than $153 billion," the submission states.

"The sector is increasingly replying on technology for information mangement and acknowledges that IT controls and governance frameworks are essential to ensure that IT systems are protected from inappropriate access and misuse.

"However, to date there has been a complete lack of NSW government support to local governments in managing cyber security threats."

The submission cited a recent audit that found 80 percent of councils were without a cyber security policy or framework, while 76 percent had not delivered cyber security training to all staff.

The Office of Local Government is now working with Cyber Security NSW to develop a standardised cyber security policy for all 128 councils by July 2021, which LGNSW supports.

The peak body has also called on the government to provide “standardised cyber security training” to ensure council IT systems are protected from inappropriate access and misuse.

In a separate submission, the NSW government said Cyber Security NSW has begun working with local councils to uplift their cyber resilience.

Cyber Security NSW recently received a funding injection, allowing it to assist councils and small agencies with their IT security needs.

“Cyber Security NSW is engaging with a number of local councils to provide cyber security support with tailored workshops, resources and training sessions,” it said.

“Members from 42 different councils have registered for the Cyber Security NSW Essentials Training with over 600 staff from these local councils registered.”

LGNSW also wants “resourcing support” for councils to meet skills shortages, including in regional and remote areas, and to help them compete with the private sector demand. 

“Councils can experience challenges in attracting skilled workers, particularly in rural and regional areas,” it said, citing research that 86 percent had faced skills shortages in 2018. 

Despite welcoming the recent funding increase for Cyber Security NSW to help councils with security, the peak body also wants “direct financial support” for councils.

“The compounding impacts of unprecedented drought, bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with rate pegging and cost shifting, means that council finances are stretched to the limit,” it said.

“Councils need additional financial support from the NSW government in order to effectively improve their cyber security capabilities.”

The first hearing of the cyber security inquiry will take place on October 29. 

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