by Christian Edwards
SYDNEY, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Australian government will look to a new think-tank on cyber security established in partnership with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to stave off cyber attacks.
According to a survey this week by BT Security, an arm of British Telecom, more than six in ten Australian companies are vulnerable to cyber attacks.
BT Security says that some 63 percent of Australian respondents were victims of 'multiple crashes lasting up to six hours,' a figure far higher than the global average of just 41 percent.
According to the survey, Australian organizations took an average 12 hours to fully recover from an especially powerful attack and that cyber intrusions are literally 'wreaking havoc with the IT systems of Australian enterprises.'
Established just two weeks ago, deep inside the Australian Defense Force Academy's academic hub of UNSW Canberra, the revelation that in the last year six of every ten local companies surveyed suffered multiple system crashes (the result of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks) will not have been lost on the Department of Defense, which has more than 50 years collaboration with UNSW before launching the Australian Center for Cyber Security (ACCS) on June 16.
The ACCS will turn to experts, academics and students to analyze threats such as the DDoS attacks which use networks of compromised computers to send millions of requests to online services and websites at once, taking them offline.
The launch of the ACCS comes in the wake of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's jaunt to the U.S. to meet with President Barack Obama, after which both nations vowed to strengthen cooperation in cyber issues, including cyber defense and cyber security incident response.
According to one insider, a summary of U.S. -- Australia relations issued by the White House around the same time as the ACCS opened without fanfare suggested cooperation on "cyber defense and cyber security incident response" would be a priority in standing with President Obama's much discussed 'Asia pivot.'
With Australia's cyber security capabilities clearly maturing, the two long-standing partners will align their computer emergency response teams (CERTs) and share cyber-threat information, with one of the ACCS' stated goals to protect and inform government organizations and "provide strategies to fight off potential dangers."
According to government sources here, the ACCS is central to the "largest cohort of cyber security researchers in Australia," and will provide "cutting-edge," thought-leadership in cyber warfare and crime through research, education and external management.
To help mitigate these external threats to cyber security, the ACCS will source knowledge and ideas from its "arsenal of experts" in politics, cyber industry, defense, academia, individual and organizational users and media.
The establishment of the new center was initially put forward under the previous Gillard administration at the beginning of 2013 following a reported 400 cyber incidents against government systems between 2011-12.
ACCS Director Jill Slay said the Center draws on the skills of some of the "best cyber security experts" in the country, serving as thought leaders in legal, policy and technical domains.
"UNSW applies this leadership through research, teaching and engagement with the government, Defense and business community," Professor Slay said.
UNSW Canberra said that the ACCS comes at a time when cyber security "is moving to the top of global political, scholarly and commercial agendas."
Earlier this year, Simon Hansen with Australian Strategic Policy Institute's (ASPI) International Cyber Policy Center told the ABC that the lack of mature discussion about Australia's cyber security threats will 'ultimately jeopardize Australia's future security and prosperity.'
"Despite the long-held tradition of not speaking on intelligence and security matters, there is a likelihood that not debating these issues will obfuscate real risks for Australia."
Certainly a more open dialogue with partners across the Asia Pacific, including Australia's key trading partner China - instead of arms-length accusations, would go a long way to building a untied, regional approach to this new and dangerous frontier.
With the U.S. and its allies rocked by a year of stunning disclosures led by the renegade whistleblower Edward Snowden - including a revelation that Australia has been listening in on neighbor Indonesia - the ASPI said, there are 'more hazards for Australia in not saying anything, than saying something.'
"Keeping threats in the dark does nothing for building awareness about the growing challenges posed by offensive cyber activities."