Top cyber security agency to brief universities


Australia’s vice-chancellors will receive a high-level cyber security briefing from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

The briefing will update universities on the latest security risks and ways to bolster their cyber security.

Universities must have stronger defences in place, according to the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan.

“Universities are high value targets for malicious cyber attackers because of the valuable intellectual property and personal information they hold,” he said.

“The ASD are experts in cyber security and can provide the guidance to ensure our universities are taking action to ensure their cyber security.

“Every Australian who is online should be proactive about taking steps to protect their cyber security and that includes at our universities.”

Australian Cyber Security Centre boss, Rachel Noble, will meet with vice-chancellors in Wollongong on Wednesday. She argued universities will continue to be the targets of cyber attacks.

ASD has been working with “all sectors of the economy to improve their cyber defences and resilience”, Noble told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

The threat to Australian universities’ databases came into question earlier this year after a string of events highlighted the real risks to national security.

In June, it was revealed that in late 2018, a “sophisticated operator” illegally accessed “significant amounts of personal staff, student and visitor data extending back 19 years”, according to ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt. Up to 200,000 staff and students had their personal data stolen in the breach, including bank details, passport information and academic records.

Schmidt said ANU had been working “closely” with government security agencies and industry security partners to “reduce the risk of future intrusion”.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Fergus Hanson said ANU is an “obvious target” due to the large amount of future and current public servants studying there.

“If it targeted the national security college that would be a real concern,” Hanson told the Mandarin.

ANU is a “feeder group for national security”, meaning the stolen data could be incredibly valuable. Officials were concerned about how the data could be exploited, including using it to build profiles of existing government officials, and grooming future officials.

Also in June, the NSW Auditor-General reported that a number of NSW universities had failed to fix their IT weaknesses, leaving them at risk of cyber attacks.

 

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