The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cybersecurity, Dan Tehan, recently vocalized an opinion that made waves. From one perspective—that of the lawmakers behind some recent darknet legislation—his firmly rooted opinion fit in. From a perspective shared by numerous journalists, though, the firmly rooted opinion was nothing short of ridiculous. Not simply other internet voices either, but Naked Security’s Bill Cameron wrote that, “in Australia, some early reactions to the possibility of any new government interference weren’t kind.”
The loudly voiced opinion fell dangerously close to an issue Australians faced years ago regarding government managed censorship. This, he explained, was different; he proposed that ISPs and telecommunications companies “must take greater responsibility” when customers are “being infected by viruses.” In a column in The West Australian, the hacker gains Cybersecurity Minister wrote that ISPs should be trusted like we trust doctors. “Just as we trust banks to hold our money, just as we trust doctors with our health, in a digital age we need to be able to trust telecommunications companies to protect our information from threats.”
He went one step further with the British Australian Fintech Forum in London. There, he explained that ISPs are expected to engage in the not-for-profit sector where customers might lack the ability to protect themselves from cybercrime. “If you are standing still when it comes to cyber, you are actually going backwards,” he said. “No-one is willing to come forward and speak out about these criminal acts for fear of reputational damage, but it is occurring at such a scale and such a cost that we must act.”
Fintech firms, at the Forum, believed the proposed relationship would require a collaboration where internet companies received something in return. Simon Edwards, PayPal’s government relations director, explained what PayPal—and presumably other fintech firms—wanted of the product government:
“What government is asking of all of us today is that as we use our expertise in the area and we start sharing that with them. What we are asking of government is they give back to us. Feedback from government about what it knows is very relevant for the algorithms we run to check out what is going on on our network on a daily basis. If we don’t have the information, the algorithms we are running are less [effective] than they should be.”
“Dan Tehan has just provided the country with adequate reasons as to why he should not be allowed anywhere near any post that has anything to do with online security,” Sam Varghese wrote in an ITwire post. “When it comes to detail, Tehan predictably goes missing.” A thematic element shared by many IT news outlets is one that strongly suggests that Tehan has a lack of experience and knowledge with respect to cybersecurity.
This is a situation where neither side of the fence is quiet about their opinion. While Dan Tehan never concretely said that new legislation was in the works, his opinion weighs more than nearly every opposing voice. Only time will tell what is to come.