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Intelligence community gears up for major ICT refresh

by Ellen Sanderson •
Free resource

Substantial ICT capability reform is expected across the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) after a growing number of high-profile security breaches of Australia’s public sector networks. Both the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) approached the market earlier this year in search of new ICT solutions to address changing capability needs, with other agencies expected to follow suit.

The DIO released a Request for Information (RFI) in search of “ICT capabilities relevant to the operations of a strategic level, all-source intelligence agency.” Functionality and integration reform across the information networks and systems of the DIO is long overdue after being singled out in the 2016 Integration Investment Program as part of a much broader issue of system obsolescence across the sector.

The intelligence arm of Defence is seeking industry advice on available and innovative ICT tools, functionality, application and operating strategies across a broad range of capability areas such as: modelling and simulation; information collation, fusing and analysis; business intelligence; and, mission governance. The information gathered from the RFI will assist DIO “with the development of [its] ICT Consolidation and Modernisation plan,” according to the RFI release.

No procurement activities have been approved to proceed in connection with DIO at this stage; however, broader reform across the sector is expected with measures already in place within the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to address interoperability measures within the AIC.

The ACSC has gone to market in search of a complete cyber threat intelligence solution to overhaul its existing capability platform. The agency, now a subsidiary of the ASD, is looking for a commercial-off-the-shelf solution to securely automate the processes which underpin key information exchange channels between public and private sector stakeholders.

Scalability is a crucial feature, as the solution will need to be able to “[ingest] multiple threat intelligence feeds” such as attack patterns, exploits and malware according to iTNews. The solution must also be interoperable with the government’s alpha “ portal,” which is aiming to amalgamate a number of existing cyber security websites – a strategic move which will facilitate greater threat intelligence sharing across the AIC and broader industries.

Recent network breaches plague the AIC

The most recent calls for digital transformation within the AIC have come in the wake of ASD’s belated contribution to the 2018 digital delivery of government services inquiry, which detailed “almost 1100 cyber security incidents against the federal government” over the past three financial years.

These cases varied in threat level from requiring significant “data exfiltration and degradation of the network through to no harm being realised”; however, each incident noted was considered serious enough to warrant an operational response.

These findings prefaced the most recent breach of secure government servers, when a “sophisticate state actor” targeted the Parliament House computer network earlier this month. Despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s assurances that investigations did not find any evidence of electoral interference, questions around the current integrity of Australia’s security infrastructure have been raised, especially coming into the electoral season.

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