Cyber Security - We all have a role to play

7 November, 2022

There's a lot of blame being thrown around this morning during this debate, which surprises me, but it probably shouldn't surprise me with the length of time that I have served here. In the book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I recommend everybody read—written so many years ago—it describes exactly what we're going through at the moment. Our heroine uses her considerable skills in the cyber space to bring down her enemy either in information or in financial movements across the country, across the world. We are now living in that space. It's been coming for 20 years. I don't think Optus or Medibank enjoyed being hacked.

There's a sort of personal arrangement in this for me too. There's a building company—not a large company but not a small company—building homes, residences, trading really well, with a fantastic product. I asked a friend of the owner, 'What happened to the business? How did it go broke, when it was such a good business?' He said, 'To tell you the truth, it started with a ransomware attack on the company that cost the company $1 million to fix.' Now, if it had only involved that, the company could have survived easily, except that there were other forces that then came in. They included COVID and the mandates that were put in by the Victorian government that didn't allow their workforce to move, and their workforce was one that moved from site to site, wherever they were building homes. Because they were unable to move, they then—but that's a whole other story. Anyway, there were other problems with it. But it began with a ransomware attack on the company, which cost them $1 million to fix.

That means it's not just about the Medibanks and the big organisations. We are under threat as individuals. That was a family owned company. They have lost everything. They've lost their homes. They've lost their offices. They've lost everything. I hope and pray they will start again. But this is what happens, living in this cyberspace as we do today.

A member of the family was about to make a payment on the building of a residence. For some reason, he felt uncomfortable. It was $35,000. He was just about to, bang, press the button. He rang the builder and he said, 'Mate, it's got your name,' and everything was there, exactly the same as the last one that he paid. But, actually, he had been hacked, and, had he pressed the button, $35,000 would have gone straight into an account somewhere in Australia and then straight overseas within minutes. That's where we're up to now.

This is a war, but it comes down to the individual level as well. Members of parliament must get at least one call a week from people that are being scammed, or someone's trying scam them—all the time. So as a nation we have to be really on our guard. I believe the previous government did the best they could.

Optus and Medibank didn't want to go through the process they went through. They believed that they had armour in place so they couldn't be hacked. But somebody smarter than the person who was doing the protection was able to bypass the protection they had in place. That's what we're facing every day. So it's a whole-of-government exercise—and whole of community and whole of business. Sorry, but, to me, whacking a $1 million penalty on me is not going to make me do any better to protect my business than I would otherwise do. I will do everything to protect my business, my family and my activity. And every company is like that. I step into this space and say we've got to work together as a nation, as a people, as best we can, and we charge this government with that responsibility on behalf of the people of Australia. The greatest holder of information is the federal government of Australia, so we need to be looking at making sure our data can't be breached so that we can survive into the future.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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