AustCyber, an independent not-for-profit cyber security growth network, has laid bare urgent vulnerabilities within the Australian economy due to politicians, bureaucrats, as well as industry and academia not taking a whole-of-economy approach to cyber-security and cyber resilience.

Speaking at a media round table on cyber security in Sydney, AustCyber CEO Michelle Price highlighted serious weaknesses around how to ensure the Australian economy is cyber-resilient, and “also then making sure that we can be globally competitive in what is a shrinking world.”

“[We] are not taking a holistic picture – in my view – of what all the inter-dependencies and intersections [in] all of this landscape.” Price warned, raising the question of significant impacts to the economic competitiveness.

“How much are we losing from the innovation side of things, and commercialisation opportunities, by having unknown and untold, unintended consequences, that are coming from what is a train smash of a legislative landscape?” she asked.

“We need to take a pause and understand the legislative, regulatory, standards and guidance environment that we have created for cyber-security, but also for the rest of the economy, knowing that cyber-security is the true horizontal; and recognise that, yes, we have made a few mistakes,” Price added, while acknowledging there had also been some notable wins.

“But let’s evolve it because we actually can’t continue the way it is now,” she urged, however. “Right now what we are facing is a whole series of legislation, regulation, standards, and guidance, that is causing extreme confusion across the economy. “

“It does touch every single part of the economy and we’re not conceiving of legislation, regulation, standards and guidance with that in mind,” she added, emphasising that the way in which cyber-security actually plays out across the economy varies “from one moment to the next, from one incident to the next, [and] from one sub-sector and sector to the next, [from] one organisation at the low end of the scale to the high end.”

Price argued the pressing need to a strategic approach along with an understanding the job of the economy is to provide benefit to Australians. “Not to other countries, not to service free trade agreements. not to service alliances; but to actually service the Australian community,” she said.

“I’m not sure that we have that front of mind any more when we look at the confluence of all of this landscape, notwithstanding the fact that it doesn’t take account of whether or not we have a business that is a sole trader, right through to the largest employer of the country, which happens to be the Department of Defence, and everyone in between.”

“So we have an environment here that is highly complex, but we’ve created it,” Price said. “It’s all of us.”

Ultimately, the AustCyber chief executive said ‘”we’re in the game now, more than anything else, [of] one that does not have a perimeter. We’re also in a game where we have complex and dynamic supply and value chains in play. And this is all in the environment where we have people who don’t know how to trust each other anymore.”

Price said underpinning this shifting economic narrative was the ability, or otherwise, of stakeholders to choose to trust, adding “but do we actually know what the definition of trust is anymore?”