CANBERRA – The United States, Japan and Australia are cooperating on a domestic internet cable proposal for Papua New Guinea as an alternative to an offer by Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the United States regards as a cybersecurity threat, a U.S. diplomat said Friday. The Australian government blocked Huawei in August from rolling out Australia's 5G network due to security issues and has concerns about the company's involvement in the telecommunication infrastructure of its nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea. The U.S. charge d'affaires to Australia, James Carouso, said the three Pacific defense allies were negotiating with the impoverished South Pacific island nation of 8 million people, mostly subsistence farmers, on its internet contract. "We're working on a counter offer," Carouso told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "These are negotiations that are going on. Papua New Guinea minister Justin Tkatchenko said his government was willing to work with Australia on the internet network if it offered a better deal than Huawei, The Australian newspaper reported Friday.
The federal government has finally released its report on how to prepare Australia for the future, focusing solely on how the country can leverage technology to not fall further behind its OECD peers than it already is. The report, Australia's Tech Future: Delivering a strong, safe and inclusive digital economy [PDF], is introduced by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, who says in her foreword that the document "sets out the opportunities and the challenges in maximising the benefits on offer". What the report that took a few years to be published does is mention what certain outcomes could be, but it fails to provide any true direction or tangible initiatives. It does, however, include case studies of work already underway, mostly following on from when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull initially launched the country's innovation agenda in December 2015. The government believes Australia can maximise the opportunities of technological change by focusing on six key areas under four headers: People, through developing digital skills; delivering digital services to citizens; building infrastructure and providing access to high-quality data; and also cybersecurity measures and reviews of the country's regulator systems.
The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), through its Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), recommends that all organisations implement its Essential Eight controls for mitigating cyber attacks. The clue is in the name. A whole-of-government response to a long-running parliamentary inquiry, released early this month, merely "notes" the inquiry's recommendation to mandate the Essential Eight controls for all government agencies, but declines to move beyond "strongly recommending" just four of them. "The Essential Eight represents ASD's best advice on the measures an entity can take to mitigate the threat of a cyber incident and manage their risks. However, the government will consider mandating the Essential Eight when cyber security maturity has increased across entities," the response said.
Cyber security experts in the United States and Europe said the spread had slowed on Sunday, but warned the respite might be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work. New versions of the worm are expected, the experts said, and the extent - and economic cost - of the damage from Friday's attack were unclear.