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The National Business Review: Closer NZ/Aus cyber cooperation makes 'good sense'

07 November 2016

As published in the NBR, Friday 4th November

Communications Minister Amy Adams recently returned from Australia, where she met with Dan Tehan, the minister assisting the prime minister for cyber security and agreed to cooperate on a range of initiatives. Areas of interest include boosting cyber skills, building the cyber capability of small and medium-sized businesses and cooperating on joint awareness raising campaigns.

“Australia and New Zealand enjoy a productive relationship on cyber issues. Working together means we can better respond to challenges and be prepared to deal with serious cyber security threats that could affect both our nations,” Ms Adams says.

Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies senior lecturer Andrew Colarik says each country, not only Australia and New Zealand, attempts to maintain its own identity but cyber security is “culturally blind” in its impact.

“The technological foundations and free-flow of data drives the need for complementary standards and response plans. If their economic relationship is prioritised, then it makes good sense to extend this relationship to collaborate with critical infrastructure,” Dr Colarik says.

Security vendors from all over the world use New Zealand businesses as pilots to introduce new threat mitigation technologies, explains Origin IT chief information security officer Joerg Buss, indicating New Zealand businesses are treated at the same level for cyber security as those in Australia.

“The main difference between the countries is in the information security side, meaning governance, policies, procedures and security awareness. Australia has a stronger top-to-bottom approach when it comes to implementing information security. This means the approach in Australia is more holistic and board-driven instead of IT-driven as it is in New Zealand.
“I think [Ms Adams’ initiative] shows the New Zealand government has understood it needs to be more like Australia in its approach to cyber security,” he says.

Australian businesses need to make sure New Zealand businesses have the same level of information security understanding before they can share information across borders, Mr Buss says. The two markets work together closely so it makes sense to consolidate strategies on a common ground.

“You could say they’re already attached at the hip and are now working on the shoulder to find a common language when it comes to information security.

“Think of it like a football match. Both teams walk on to the field knowing the rules of the game, where the corner flags are and how they can score a goal. Clarifying these things in any type of relationship means that all energy and effort can be spent scoring goals instead of trying to work out the rules,” Mr Buss says.

“The two governments are actively wanting to play the game to the benefit of both countries – hence the motivation for the tightening. Ultimately, we both win because we have a clearly defined playing field and can focus on value creation.”

Ms Adams and Mr Tehan asked officials to provide an update on the commitment’s progress in early 2017. A media statement says the initiatives will bolster the government’s approach to cyber security issues, and further align Australia and New Zealand’s public-private awareness initiatives and workforce readiness to reduce the cyber threat in the Asia-Pacific region. - Nathan Smith.

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