Rising levels of hacking in recent years is stoking fears of more widespread damage to come but discussions about creating an international internet security agreement have only really just begun. Officials admit that with the fast-evolving nature of technology and the internet, it’s a race to stay ahead of the latest developments.
Speaking at a global internet conference in the Netherlands in April, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the development among states of an agreement on cross-border internet security was “premature” but nonetheless required to deal with the growing threat to the infrastructure of companies and countries. It’s particularly true now that increasing numbers of firms are operating in cloud-computing environments, as well as governments, including Australia.
“Australia argues that an international agreement is premature,” Bishop told delegates at the Global Conference on Cyberspace in The Hague. “Even the work of codifying key principles is in its infancy. The conversation has only just started, and the technology is evolving rapidly. It is a challenge for policymakers just to keep up,” she said.
Last year saw a never-ending stream of major data breaches around the world, with hackers swiping all sorts of information, from sensitive documents to customers’ credit card details, passwords, emails and more. Demonstrating the sheer scale of the problem, the online auction site eBay said hackers managed to tap into its systems and stole the personal data of 145 million of its customers.
A total of 83 million email addresses as well as home addresses were stolen from the United States’ largest bank, JPMorgan, while cyber-thieves made off with 109 million credit card numbers and email addresses at retailer Home Depot. Rounding out the year was an enormously embarrassing attack on Sony Pictures, with hackers taking 47,000 items of information, ranging from confidential emails to the salary details of leading actors and executives, many of which were subsequently leaked to various websites.
The Australian government, meanwhile, has set out three priorities for online security: facilitating emergency responses in protecting the integrity of the internet, investigating online crimes and taking legal action, and not engaging in any activities online that could harm nations’ infrastructure.