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Government tickles funny bones to promote cyber security

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has released a video aimed at educating the public about personal cyber security through humour on Thursday.

“Recognise. Report”, featuring comedian Merrick Watts, is aimed at raising awareness around cyber security.

The role of ACSC, launched in November 2014 under the joint responsibility of the Attorney-General and Minister for Defence, is to raise awareness of cyber security and lead the government’s response to cyber security incidents.

Although some online were critical, the agency defended the video.

The ACSC “aimed to create an online video that makes cyber security relatable in real world terms to a wide audience, particularly non technical audiences, concluding with a call to action to report incidents,” said ACSC Co-ordinator Major General Steve Day.

“We have tried something different, humour, to try and engage our audience, while delivering our serious message … We would welcome constructive feedback to help us fine tune our communication to ensure it is useful for the intended audience.

“We envisage ‘Recognise. Report’ will be a useful resource for organisations to start a conversation about protecting their vital information.”

The video was inspired by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ “Spotlight” campaign, which “was a great example of using information relevant to Australians in an engaging and humorous manner”, Day explains.

The agency was also “very encouraged” by the success of Air New Zealand’s Hobbit-themed safety video “that made a serious message engaging and memorable”.

But such engagement doesn’t come cheap — the video cost $203,199.70 to create. The ACSC is funded from existing resources between a range of participating agencies.

One benefit of using YouTube videos for government outreach is the ability to track engagement. “Importantly, we can also utilise analytics throughout the campaign,” said Day. Though it’s not necessarily a reliable substitute for monitoring behavioural change, digital data — such as YouTube views or social media interactions — are clearly cheaper and easier to collect than many more traditional measurements of engagement.

At the time of publishing, “Recognise. Report” was sitting at around 2700 views after 24 hours.

“Videos are easily absorbed, engaging and memorable for a wide audience …”

“Videos are easily absorbed, engaging and memorable for a wide audience. They can be hosted at a negligible cost and accessed (and shared) quickly and easily,” Day added.

Asked how the agency planned to engage with different sections of the community, Day told The Mandarin: “Each campaign we pursue will look at the use of different and new media. We will look at the best way to reach our audience within our budget.

“This is important because the ACSC will produce publications aimed at a wide range of audiences, from senior executives, to end users, to technical ICT security guidance …

“We will continue to use a range of means to get to our audiences, including traditional printed products.”

According to its website, the role of the ACSC is to:

  • Lead the Australian government’s operational response to cyber security incidents;
  • Organise national cyber security operations and resources;
  • Encourage and receive reporting of cyber security incidents;
  • Raise awareness of the level of cyber threats to Australia;
  • Study and investigate cyber threats.

The ACSC has co-located a range of Commonwealth functions, including:

  • The former Cyber Security Operations Centre, a Defence-based capability that hosted liaison staff from other government agencies;
  • Australian Signals Directorate’s cyber security mission;
  • CERT Australia, under Attorney-General’s, which supports industry, critical infrastructure and systems of national interest;
  • Representatives of the Australian Federal Police who investigate and respond to cyber crime of national significance;
  • The Australian Crime Commission, which discovers, understands and prioritises cyber crime threat intelligence to enhance response options;
  • Cyber investigations and telecommunication security specialists from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The Cyber Security Operations Board is responsible for strategic oversight of the government’s operational cyber security capabilities and co-ordination of cyber security measures. The board members are at the level of secretary and agency head.

Day, head of Cyber and Information Security at the Australian Signals Directorate, is the centre’s first co-ordinator.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.