Australia actively promotes an open, free and secure cyberspace.

To achieve our goal, the Government will:

  • appoint Australia’s first Cyber Ambassador.
  • publish an international cyber engagement strategy.
  • champion an open, free and secure Internet that enables all countries to generate growth and opportunity online.
  • partner internationally to shut down safe havens and prevent malicious cyber activity, with a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
  • build cyber capacity in the Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere, including through public-private partnerships.

Cyber security is a critical issue for Australia’s international cooperation. Cyberspace is already a core foreign policy issue and a central theme of Australia’s diplomatic efforts. Developing norms of state behaviour, the application of international law, internet governance and cyber innovation are regularly discussed at multilateral forums and by Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Australia needs to partner internationally to ensure our cyber engagement advances our security and economic interests, as well as our values. The Government will publish an international engagement strategy to help guide our bilateral and regional cooperation on cyber security.

But the private sector and research community can and must be part of the international cyber agenda—only then can we promote all Australians’ interests in cyberspace.

Australia advocates for an open, free and secure internet based on our values of free speech, privacy and the rule of law. We will continue to promote that opportunities provided by the internet be available to all people, advocating against state censorship of the Internet. The newly appointed Cyber Ambassador will lead Australia’s efforts on this front together with a coordinated approach to cyber capacity building in our region.

Actions so far

  • Australia chaired the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts in 2012-13 that found existing obligations under international law are applicable when operating in cyberspace.
  • Australia has played an important role in advancing risk reduction and conflict prevention through leading on the ASEAN Regional Forum cyber work plan adopted by Ministers in August 2015.
  • In 2015, Australia joined the Freedom Online Coalition—a partnership of 29 governments working to advance Internet freedom.
  • The Australian Federal Police works with policing agencies throughout the Indo-Pacific region on training and capacity building initiatives to counter cybercrime. For example, the Cyber Safety Pasifika initiative is a collaborative project between the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police and the Australian Federal Police. It has now been launched in 14 Pacific Island countries and has trained 40 Pacific Island instructors to deliver cyber safety education in their own countries and mentoring support in other Pacific Island countries. Over 72,000 children and young people in the Pacific have now attended its education and awareness workshops.
  • In 2013, Australia joined the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, otherwise known as the Budapest Convention. The Convention codifies what constitutes a criminal offence in cyberspace and streamlines international cybercrime cooperation between signatory states.
  • The national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia presently chairs the steering committee of the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (comprising 28 teams from 20 economies across the region) and shares threat information with other response teams around the world.
  • The Australian Attorney-General’s Department provides assistance to Pacific Island countries to reform their criminal justice frameworks to address cybercrime.
  • In parallel to our cyber security partnerships, the Government is enhancing cooperation with international partners to detect and prevent terrorists’ use of the internet and counter violent extremism online. This includes Australia being a lead partner in the East Asia Summit and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s efforts to counter online extremism and combat online terrorist propaganda.

An open, free and secure Internet

Several countries currently remain determined to impose constraints on the open nature of the Internet. Australia has consistently advocated for an open, free and secure Internet based on our values of freedom of speech, right to privacy and rule of law. Australia will continue to promote the opportunities provided by the Internet to be available to all, advocating against state censorship of the internet.

Three core principles guide Australia’s international cyber engagement:

  • The current way the Internet is governed, involving the private sector and the community as equal partners with governments, is the most effective model. This multi-stakeholder model of internet governance delivers economic benefit and social opportunity while balancing fundamental human rights, such as freedom of expression and privacy.
  • State behaviour in cyberspace is governed by international law and reinforced by agreed norms of state behaviour and practical confidence building measures to reduce the risk of conflict.
  • Developing cyber capacity internationally helps to close the digital and economic divide between developed and developing nations and, in doing so, enhances Australia’s national security and export opportunities.

By increasing mutual understanding, we can also help to reduce tension between states and the risk of miscalculation. Australia will continue to promote peacetime norms for acceptable state behaviour in cyberspace, which include that states should:

  • prevent and refrain from online activity that damages or impairs critical infrastructure;
  • facilitate (and not hinder) the critical work of other national Computer Emergency Response Teams in protecting online security;
  • live up to their responsibilities in investigating and policing malicious activity online emanating from their national territory and responding to requests for cooperative action; and
  • not conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, with the intent of providing competitive advantage to companies or commercial sectors.

Cyber Policy Dialogues

In 2014-15 Australia opened formal multi-agency cyber policy dialogues with China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea to strengthen our partnerships in Asia. Australia also has a longstanding cyber policy dialogue with New Zealand since 2012.

These dialogues provide a foundation for practical cooperation, allowing us to strengthen existing bilateral ties, share valuable cyber threat information, exchange views and advocate for Australia’s interests. For example, the Government uses the dialogues to promote an open, free and secure internet and emphasise the importance of norms of behaviour for stability in cyberspace.

Shut down safe havens

Partnerships between Australia and other countries are critical to developing mutual confidence and ensuring there are no safe havens for cyber criminals and other malicious cyber actors. They also allow us to work internationally to stop cyber attacks and track down perpetrators. Australia will continue to invest in these relationships and in raising the cyber security capacity of our region.

Most cybercrime originates from overseas. Partnering internationally to prevent and shut down malicious cyber activity and build capacity helps target cyber security risks at their source and spreads resilience, paying dividends for Australia’s cyber security. It also helps protect Australian businesses.

Australia will work even more closely with and, where necessary, support our international partners in preventing cyber attacks and shutting down safe havens for cybercrime.

Building cyber capacity

Practical action and partnership are critical to tackling cyber criminals and to prevent them from proliferating, particularly in our region. A comprehensive, joinedup approach on cyber security by Australia and our partners must also be grounded in mutual trust.

The Government will increase the extent of our activity and partner internationally, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, to help build capacity against malicious cyber activities.

This will include sharing techniques to combat cybercrime, and enabling close collaboration between national computer emergency response teams.

Sharing Australia’s expertise in cyber security

In 2015 at the Global Conference on CyberSpace in The Hague, Australia became a founding partner of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise to improve cyber capacity building (e.g. sharing our skills with and learning from other countries). Through the Forum, Australia will bring its expertise and strengths to partner with countries in our region to mitigate cyber attacks.

The openness of the Internet lies at the heart of its role as an economic driver, as well as the basis for its contribution to social life. It connects people and ideas; it eliminates distance and time. It is a libertarian force for good.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, at the 2013 Global Conference on CyberSpace in Seoul