Australians not confident of Australia’s cyber crime rersponse – study

Australia’s consumers were not confident in Australia’s response to cyber attacks and lack of data security even before the most recent hacks of data from Medibank Private and Optus.

Illegal cyber attacks on thousands of citizens’ personal data in Australia has heightened awareness of the hazards of insecure digital systems, according to researchers from Flinders University, and want to play a more active role in reducing risks caused by hacking, online deception, bots and other threats.

Their study of a nationally representative sample of 1,500 Australian citizens in 2020 – and focus groups comprising 62 people in three states – ‘Resilience to cyber-enabled foreign interference: citizen understanding and threat perceptions’ – has just been published in the journal Defence Studies

The stidy found that even before the recent escalation in cyber breaches people were not confident or optimistic that Australia is keeping pace with cyber threats and interference in the country’s economy, politics or society.

Study author and Flinders University researcher Dr Josh Holloway said: “Not only are these citizens concerned about the technological capabilities of government – often citing poor experiences using online government services – but they also showed doubts about investment in skills and commitments to cybersecurity among businesses.

“Quite reasonably, they tended to have little awareness of which public institutions and authorities are taking leadership in managing cyber threats and, collectively, expressed broad scepticism of social media and tech companies, media organisations, the federal government and public service generally.”

While survey participants wanted more capability and responsibility from the public sector and corporations, their trust in this process was low.

The findings highlights the gap between Australian citizens’ knowledge and engagement and the broad response to cyber threats from top-down, technocratic and elite-driven agencies, according to the researchers.

Co-author Associate Professor Robert Manwaring (pictured) said Australian citizens’ confusion and lack of trust is not necessarily their fault.

“There’s generally little meaningful strategic effort to engage citizens in government-led responses, overlooking what’s often called the ‘social layer’ of cybersecurity.

“We need to encourage a genuinely whole-of-society approach – something which like Sweden and Finland are making considerable inroads.”

The media also should play a greater role in informing the public and public debate around cyber threats.

“Australians need to be informed of the reality of cyber risk, and given the tools and information to participate in strategic efforts to enhance Australia’s cyber resilience, rather than just hearing about the fallout of successful cyber-attacks.”

Picture: Associate Professor Robert Manwaring

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