Securing Australia's critical infrastructure and combating computer crime remains high on the federal government's 2003-04 Budget agenda.
A whopping $410.5 million was allocated to national security, the bulk of which went to ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The Budget coincided with the launch of a scheme for industry of free national alerts to provide early warning of threats and vulnerability to computer systems underpinning essential services.
The AusCert National Information Technology Alert Service, which provides free alerts to subscribing owners and operators of Australia's national information infrastructure was launched at the group's conference on Queensland's Gold Coast this week.
This information will allow companies to take security measures as soon as threats are identified and will be supported by a complementary reporting scheme which will allow subscribers to report suspected IT security incidents to AusCert and will be rolled out in the next few months. Collected information will enable AusCert to identify the emergence of threats or patterns of attacks.
Details of the alert schemes and subscriber information are available at www.nationalsecurity.gov.au.
The scheme also supports the federal government's Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) which provides a forum for owners and operators of national critical infrastructure to exchange information on security-related matters.
Speaking at AusCert's conference, special agent Robert Flaim of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said the Australian government's critical infrastructure initiatives mirror those in the US where cyber crime is now a 'tier one' priority receiving the bulk of funding resources along with terrorism and foreign intelligence.
Other budget initiatives include $25.3 million to upgrade the Australian Secure Network (ASNet) to secure the communications infrastructure; $22.9 million over four years to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to monitor telecommunications competition regulation; and $12.3 million to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to implement tougher laws dealing with corporate disclosure.
The new disclosures laws give ASIC the power to issue on-the-spot fines in a climate where companies are relying more on IT to ensure stringent reporting requirements are in place.