Phil Kernick, national director of information security at consulting firm CQR, says the politicians should spend less time campaigning about stopping the boats and more time addressing cyber security issues that plague Australian internet users.
“I sincerely hope that this will be the last election campaign in which cyber security is ignored,” Mr Kernick told news.com.au exclusively. “Its omission is very concerning.”
“Last year 5.4 million Australians were victims of cyber crime with an estimated cost to the economy of $1.65 billion.”
Several high-profile institutions were hacked this year, including the Reserve Bank.
Mr Kernick says that it’s clear Australians are vulnerable and under attack. “There are no two ways about it,” he says.
“Why do our politicians spend so much time trying to win votes for their party’s approach to issues like asylum seekers? I’m not belittling the asylum seeker issue, but the point is that this issue doesn’t affect very many of us on a day-to-day basis, yet we have heard about it ad nauseam.
“The answer is simple. Politicians talk about things they think we are interested in. As prolific as cybercrime is, very few people know much about it and therefore very few people talk about it”.
Neither Mr Rudd, communications minister and deputy PM Mr Albanese, Mr Abbott, minister for broadband Ed Husic or shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to news.com.au’s interview requests on this issue.
Early next year the Senate will discuss a bill that would make it compulsory for companies and organisations to disclose security breaches to the Federal Privacy Commissioner and consumers.
Mr Kernick says this will be the first step to empower consumers to make informed decisions about which service providers they can trust with their data.
However, the security expert says this is simply not enough.
Labor announced earlier this year a plan to launch a Cyber Security Centre in Canberra but the Coalition dismissed it as nothing more than window dressing.
Mr Kernick says The Coalition has no stance on cyber security. There is no mention of it in its much-touted “Plan for Australia“.
“This is concerning because if the Coalition is elected, we may lose even more ground in the fight against cybercrime,” Mr Kernick says.
“Whichever way you look at it, the government has achieved very little and the future isn’t looking bright.”
Mr Kernick wants cyber security to be included in the education curriculum.
“I’m not talking about cyber bullying,” he says. “That is an entirely different thing. We need to create a culture of cyber security awareness and it begins at school level. Just as we were taught to cross the street safely, we need to teach our children to use the internet safely and responsibly.”
He also wants to make software vendors liable for the faults in their products.
“If a car crashes because it wasn’t designed properly, the manufacturer is liable,” he says. “If you lose your bank account because the software you use wasn’t designed properly, you lose and the manufacturer points to an end-user licencing agreement and says they aren’t liable. That attitude has to stop and government has the power to change it.”
Mr Kernick also says government should engage more with the private sector.
“We are better at this stuff than they are,” he says. “They need to work with us.”