Australian Signals Directorate open sources data analysis tool

Takes unprecedented step by posting Constellation on GitHub

Credit: Australian Signals Directorate

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has open sourced one of its in-house data visualisation and analysis tools. The ASD announced today that it had posted the source code for Constellation on GitHub.

The security agency described Constellation as a NetBeans Java application that can be “used to inform decision making and advance data-driven innovation”. The source code has been released under the Apache License 2.0.

The software can “can be used to solve large and complex problems in a simple and intuitive way,” a statement from the ASD said.

The ASD said that the application was able to identify trends and patterns in complex datasets, and is capable of scaling to “billions of inputs”. The agency gave analysing the spread of disease or exploring a chemical compound as two example use cases for Constellation.

“Putting this powerful software into the open source community is ASD’s way of giving back to the community,” said Mike Burgess, director-general of ASD. “The sky really is the limit with Constellation.”

“I hope this tool will help generate scientific and other breakthroughs that will benefit all Australians,” Burgess said.

The ASD acknowledged the work of the CSIRO’s Data61 in supporting its efforts to transition Constellation to open source.

The ASD’s decision to open source one of its software tools is unprecedented, but it follows a series of recent firsts for the agency.

The government announced in December 2017 that Burgess, who had a lengthy career at the ASD (when it was named the Defence Signals Directorate) followed by a stint in the private sector as Telstra’s CISO, had been appointed the inaugural director-general of the ASD.

He has been tasked with steering the ASD into a new era that has seen a new level of openness by the once-secretive organisation as well as a new degree of independence while still sitting within the broader Defence portfolio.

The organisation for many years has had a dual mandate of both signals intelligence for the Australian Defence Force and offensive and defensive cyber operations. The ASD last year became an independent statutory agency, which was an acknowledgement by the government that the ASD’s cyber mandate meant it needed to be in a position to compete with the private sector for skills.

In a major speech in October last year, Burgess said the shift to an independent agency meant the ASD “had come out of the shadows.” “And that's the way I intend it to stay,” he added in the speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Under Burgess’ leadership the ASD has launched a Twitter account (its first tweet: “Long time listener, first time caller”), and the director-general earlier this year was responsible for another first, offering detail about the agency’s offensive cyber operations.

The federal government revealed late last week that Burgess had been appointed to lead ASIO, with his new role due to start in mid-September.

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Tags open sourcedata analysisnational securityMike BurgessAustralian Signals Directorate (ASD)

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