Director General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mr David Irvine AO addressed the annual Edith Cowan University Business Lunch of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) with an intriguing presentation on the topic of cyber security.
David Irvine is a graduate of Hale School, Perth and UWA, with a prestigious record as a career diplomat and executive associated with Australian security and intelligence. He has been awarded an Order of Australia with the citation of furthering Australia’s national interests.
Through his introduction, Professor Kerry Cox, ECU Vice Chancellor, commended Mr Irvine’s contribution to cyber security and in particular the role he has played in supporting Australia’s intelligence relationships to major markets in Asia.
Mr Irvine then captivated his audience with a presentation that outlined the role of ASIO, his experience in protecting Australia’s security, and the impact of cyber espionage. He also discussed the public interface between the Australian intelligence community and Australian business.
Placing context around the role of ASIO, Mr Irvine referred to the threats of sabotage, espionage, terrorism, national defence, the promotion of harmony, and border defence capabilities that are the focus of his agency. He noted that ASIO has been dubbed “Australia’s fourth arm of defence”.
A substantial part of ASIO’s effort is directed towards counter-terrorism. The speaker was forthright in asserting that terrorism associated with extremist Islamist ideology is a persistent threat.
Addressing the cyber threat, Mr Irvine noted that ASIO did not wish to stand in the way of the cyber revolution “which has already happened”, however he noted that it brought with it a series of vulnerabilities that Australia is only now realising it has to respond to, both in terms of policy and technology. He discussed the highly sophisticated means of hacking into computers, accessing and extracting information undetected. Citing the risks for both Government and business, cyber espionage was not just targeted only at political interests, but also at commercial markets and trade interests.
Our increased dependence on IP-based telecommunications and data storage and management also increased our vulnerability to persons seeking to disrupt or destroy systems, at the individual enterprise or even the national level, including our critical infrastructure. Mr Irvine urged his audience to assess the cyber security risk seriously and to ensure that internal telecommunications protocols, corporate governance structures, social media protections, ICT policy and user protection are all areas of focus for commercial and public entities.
Through open questions, Mr Irvine noted that Australia needed to ensure our educational institutions were producing the computer-based skills the country now needed. When queried on the experience of Israel, Mr Irvine said “there is always something to be learned from the experience of Israel”.
The AICC(WA) event was hosted by Bankwest, and supported by the sponsorship of Microsoft. In thanking Mr Irvine, State Director of Microsoft, Cheryl Robertson concurred that privacy concerns and the protection of data was the collective concern of Government, enterprise and individuals. She commented that as the amount of information we possess grew exponentially, it was incumbent on technology developers to remain protective and remain socially responsible.