As Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, the issues of cybersafety and cybersecurity are close to my heart. The internet is increasingly being relied on by Australians for everyday activities such as banking, shopping, socialising and running a business. As the internet becomes an essential and pervasive tool in our lives, we as a society are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers posed by internet usage. Identity theft, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, breaches of privacy, scams and online fraud are all threats that present themselves on the internet.
While recognising that the internet is a dangerous place, I do not wish to discourage anyone from using it. I am convinced that the benefits the online environment brings to society far outweigh the dangers. What is important though is recognising the dangers and understanding the role that government, internet users and the wider society all have in addressing those dangers as well as the role that parents have in keeping their children safe online.
One thing that has become apparent through the cybersafety committee’s various inquiries is that, while there is a role for policing and regulation in keeping users safe online, the most effective tool for promoting cybersafety and cybersecurity is education. Being chair of the cybersafety committee has given me an opportunity to see and experience first-hand the range of programs the Australian government has for raising cybersafety and cybersecurity awareness. I have spoken previously in this place, for example, about some of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s initiatives, including: Safer Internet Day; the short film, Tagged; and the cybersmart networking program, launched at the St Aloysius Catholic College only a short distance from my office in Kingston in Tasmania.
Another of the government’s key awareness initiatives is National Cyber Security Awareness Week. The annual awareness week has grown since its inception in 2011 and is now supported by over 500 partners. This year National Cyber Security Awareness Week was held last week from 12 to 15 June, so I am pleased to be able to speak about it tonight. The Stay Smart Online website features a calendar of the events for the 2012 awareness week at http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au.
Some of the events held this year included presentations on cybersecurity at various schools, including Narembeen District High School, Deanmore Primary School and Coomera Anglican College. I have also seen community organisations get involved, such as COTA Victoria, the Geelong Regional Library, the Pingelly Regional Resource Centre and the Harvey Community Resource Centre, all of whom organised forums or presentations on cybersecurity. There were also a number of industry forums, including one held in Newcastle, about the cybersecurity risks facing small business.
I was pleased to participate in the launch of the week by joining a cybersafety summit in Canberra. The summit was addressed by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, and I had the opportunity to participate in a panel session with: Natalie Hutchins MP, the Victorian state member for Keilor; Mia Garlick, manager of communications and public policy for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand; Darren Kane, director of corporate security and investigation for Telstra; Maria Vassiliadis, manager of Cybersafety Outreach for the Australian Communications and Media Authority; and popular media personality and headspace ambassador Ruby Rose. The launch was also addressed by Darren Kane from Telstra, and Bajo and Hex, the hosts of the popular children’s TV show Good Game. They also participated in the panel.
The summit created a forum where over 150 participants—made up of students, parents and teachers—could talk about cybersafety issues with industry professionals from the government’s consultative working group on cybersafety. It also provided a great chance to hear directly from the members of the Youth Advisory Group on Cybersafety, commonly known as YAG, about how the government can continue to strengthen our approach to cybersafety issues. In the week preceding the cybersafety summit we concluded our online YAG consultations with over 800 secondary students from 95 schools across Australia. We received some fantastic advice. I will just let people know that a cybersafety summit for primary students aged eight to 12 will take place later this year.
I must also mention that among the schools that attended the summit were two schools from Tasmania. There were parents, teachers and students from Montrose Bay High School in the south of the state and St Brendan-Shaw College in the north-west of the state. I was really pleased to be able to meet the parents, teachers and of course the students from those schools.
I mentioned that Ruby Rose, the popular media personality, was on this panel. I have also noticed that Ruby Rose is a an ambassador for BackMeUp, a campaign which seeks to eliminate cyberbullying in Australia. The campaign features a video competition where children aged 13 to 17 are encouraged to produce a two-minute video explaining how they would back up someone who was being cyberbullied. Entries for the competition close on 15 August, and children can enter online at:
I think it is really important that young people get involved in that.
The Australian Federal Police put out a media release for Cyber Security Awareness Week. They were reminding internet users to be aware of cyber-risks and to educate themselves about online dangers and how to avoid them. The warnings came from Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, the National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations at the AFP. Assistant Commissioner Gaughan reminded the public to be aware of some simple steps to protect their online security, and I would like to remind everyone of those simple steps. They are things such as protecting your PIN and online passwords; checking your bank statements; ensuring your financial institution is kept informed of your travel plans; turning on automatic updates for security software such as virus checkers; using strong passwords—in other words, passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters, if possible; using different passwords, not just one password, for different sites; downloading applications only from reputable publishers; and regularly checking your privacy settings on social networking sites.
Another important principle is ‘think before you click’. Aimed particularly at teenagers, that is a message to consider the implications of sharing photos and other personal information on social networking sites. There are still a lot of young people out there who are not aware that once they upload a photo or text it to someone they have lost control of it. People need to consider carefully whether it is something they are happy for the entire world to see. Of course the ‘think before you click’ principle can be applied to the sharing of any personal information. If people are about to submit personal details, such as a credit card numbers, online they should think about whether the site they are entering is reputable and safe and whether they are comfortable with the site having that information. People do things on social websites that are quite amazing. They will tweet or put on Facebook that they are going on holidays for three weeks. On Facebook in particular you might not know who is able to see your page if you have not set your privacy settings correctly. It can be an open invitation to someone to break into your house, so people need to be a bit more careful.
Currently the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-safety is conducting an inquiry into cybersafety for senior Australians and, although I obviously cannot go into too much detail about it, one of the common types of scams I have seen is phishing. A phishing scam involves copying a website, such as that of a financial institution, and then encouraging users to enter personal details such as their bank account details or passwords. People are usually directed to the fake site by an unsolicited email—for example, an email purporting to be from their bank, the ATO or somewhere else telling them there has been a security breach on their site. What surprises me as much as the sophistication of some of the scams we are seeing is that there are really simple steps that users can take to protect themselves.
I really encourage everybody to make sure that they are aware of what they are putting online. I encourage all senators to do what they can to encourage their constituents to be aware of cybersecurity scams—to make sure that people have their privacy settings set appropriately and that they are aware of what can happen if they put too many personal details on any sites. I encourage all senators and members to take part in next year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Week.