Network Protection Legislation May Lead to Greater Cyber Risk

Sydney, 6 February 2017 – Proposed new Federal legislation intended to help protect Australian communications networks and businesses from cyber attack and sabotage might actually make them more exposed to such threats, a broad coalition of industry representatives has warned.

In a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) published today, the group pointed to serious problems in the Telecommunication Sector Security Reform (TSSR) legislation, recently introduced to Federal Parliament.

These included vague drafting, regulatory overreach, the ongoing risk that telecoms service providers could be forced by Government to dismantle or retro-fit existing communications networks and the risk to hamper innovation and to place Australian businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

The coalition of industry associations includes the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Communications Alliance, which collectively represent the bulk of Australia’s $100 billion ICT industry, including telecommunications carriers, carriage service providers, vendors and intermediaries.

The Associations did commend the Government for making a number of useful amendments to earlier drafts of the legislation, after receiving advice from Industry.

They also acknowledged that Australia’s critical infrastructure, including telecommunications services and networks, remains at risk from espionage, sabotage and foreign interference, and pointed out that industry players are commercially motivated to invest in hardening and protecting their networks.

The Associations warned, however, that the onerous, one-way nature of the notification requirements will act to hamper the responsiveness of service providers to cyber threats. They called on Government to consider more collaborative, effective approaches, as are being adopted or contemplated in other countries including the US, UK and Canada.

The proposed TSSR regime “may in fact divert scarce resources away from investing directly in addressing cyber security threats, to compliance overhead arising from the regime. It may reduce the ability for the ICT industry and its clients to proactively monitor and quickly respond to threats and breaches,” the submission states.

While the proposed legislation establishes a set of obligations for Industry, the Associations pointed to the absence in the legislation of an equivalent requirement for Government to brief Industry on emerging threats.

A further potential impractical provision, they said, is a requirement to attempt to protect networks that are ‘used’ by a service provider, even when these networks are not owned or controlled by that provider, and might not be even located in Australia or subject to Australia law.

The Associations anticipate appearing before the PJCIS on these issues when public hearings are held.
The full text of the submission can be found here.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) is a peak industry association in Australia which along with its affiliates represents the interests of more than 60,000 businesses in an expanding range of sectors including: manufacturing, engineering, construction, automotive, food, transport, information technology, telecommunications, call centres, labour hire, printing, defence, mining equipment and supplies, airlines, and other industries.
The businesses which Ai Group represents employ more than one million people. Ai Group members operate small, medium and large businesses across a range of industries. Ai Group is closely affiliated with more than 50 other employer groups in Australia alone and directly manages a number of those organisations.
For more details about Ai Group visit http://www.aigroup.com.au.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is the national body representing Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) industry. Since establishing 36 years ago, the AIIA has pursued activities aimed to stimulate and grow the ICT industry, to create a favourable business environment for its members and to contribute to the economic imperatives of the Australian nation. AIIA’s goal is to create a world class information, communications and technology industry delivering productivity, innovation and leadership for Australia.
The Association represents over 400 member organisations nationally, including global brands, international companies, national companies, and a large number of ICT SMEs. Its national board comprises representatives from hardware, software, and services companies and represents the diversity of the industry. For more details about AIIA visit https://www.aiia.com.au.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) is the peak industry body representing Australia’s mobile telecommunications industry. Its mission is to promote an environmentally, socially and economically responsible, successful and sustainable mobile telecommunications industry in Australia, with members including the mobile carriage service providers, handset manufacturers, network equipment suppliers, retail outlets and other suppliers to the industry.
For more details about AMTA visit http://www.amta.org.au.

ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body  in Australia. Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of the  communications industry, including carriers, carriage and internet  service providers, content providers, search engines, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.

Its vision is to  provide a unified voice for the telecommunications industry and to lead  it into the next generation of converging networks, technologies and  services. The prime mission of Communications Alliance is to promote the growth of the Australian communications industry and the protection of  consumer interests by fostering the highest standards of business ethics and behaviour through industry self-governance. For more details about  Communications Alliance, see www.commsalliance.com.au.

Media information contact:
Sefiani Communications
Kurt Graham kgraham@sefiani.com.au
0431 478 558