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Testing cyber defence capacity

In September 2017 the department hosted the first ever Australian Government cross-training exercise for cyber security staff: Cyber War Games—Operation First Wave 2017. As cyber attacks grow more sophisticated and disruptive, this unique training opportunity allowed some of the Australian Public Service’s brightest minds to test their cyber skills in a controlled environment.

Five teams, comprising 46 staff from 10 agencies, participated in a week-long series of activities and social events. More than 150 visitors—including school students, agency chief information officers and chief information security officers, as well as representatives from the IT industry and community groups—attended spectator sessions.

The main event was a simulated warfare game played on a ‘cyber range’. Teams attacked and defended a Lego® city connected to a purpose-built ICT network, separated from departmental systems. The cyber range was designed to replicate real-life critical infrastructure—a common target for criminals. To succeed, players had to understand the mind of a cyber criminal and demonstrate their defence skills.

The teams were scored on their technical skills, teamwork and communication effort across a range of activities throughout the week, including media doorstop interviews and a Lego® fast build as well as the main cyber war game. The overall winner was the Department of Human Services team.

The games were a great success on a number of levels, including:

  • enabling improved and new ways for agencies to identify training needs for future learning and development
  • establishing useful relationships between agencies and with industry leaders
  • strengthening the department’s reputation as a cyber-secure organisation
  • attracting positive media coverage that reached an estimated audience of over 900 000 people
  • increasing community interest, with several schools and community groups expressing interest in further activities with the department.

Cyber Security

Government operates in an environment in which cyber security threats are growing in number and sophistication. Threats come from a wide range of sources, including individuals, issue-motivated groups, organised criminal syndicates and state based or foreign government hackers.

The department addresses these threats by continually improving its ability to protect the extensive data and payment systems it administers. The capability of the Cyber Security Branch has expanded to over 180 staff with a wide range of technical and supporting skills. The department’s expanded intelligence and forensic areas now work 24/7 to provide rapid responses to emerging issues. The department is also focusing on increasing the cyber security awareness of its workforce as an additional line of defence and on collaborating across the government and private sectors.

To improve training both in the department and across government, the department hosted the first Australian Government cyber security war games event in 2017. The department welcomed staff from nine external agencies to participate. The games were an opportunity to train in simulated cyber security scenarios and enhance soft skills such as teamwork, communication, creative thinking and critical analysis.