Last week, law enforcement agencies in Australia, US and
that they have successfully dismantled a criminal enterprise servicing
the organised crime market with secure, encrypted communications.
The Australian Federal Police, the US Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Criminal
Intelligence Commission, New South Wales Crime Commission, New South Wales
Police, Queensland Police, Victoria Police, South Australia Police, the
Australian Taxation Office and AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports and
Analysis Centre) were involved in the operation.
According to the media release, it will be alleged that Canadian-based
company Phantom Secure specifically designed devices for the organised crime
market allowing criminals around the globe to use unrestricted, secure
communications beyond the capability of law enforcement interception. The
devices were used for the purpose of committing offences such as money
laundering and drug trafficking.
Law enforcement agencies across multiple continents worked
together to dismantle the network infrastructure of Phantom Secure, located in
various offshore jurisdictions, disabling the encrypted platform and the
thousands of secure devices used on it.
Five men have been indicted in the United States in
connection with the operations of Phantom Secure, including the company’s CEO,
on charges they knowingly participated in a criminal enterprise that
facilitated the transnational importation and distribution of narcotics through
the sale and service of encrypted communications.
The media release state that the impact of this takedown to
the global operations of Phantom Secure, its infrastructure and client base in
Australia have been significant, and will be sustained.
Australian authorities allege that Phantom Secure was the
largest single supplier to the Australian organised crime market and this
product was the first encrypted communication platform available on a wholesale
scale in Australia. The number of these devices sold and used in Australia
since inception is estimated to be well in excess of 10,000 – the company’s
largest customer base.
This is the first time the US government has targeted a
company and its principals for aiding and abetting criminal organisations by
knowingly providing them with tools to ‘go dark’ and evade law enforcement and
obstruct justice while committing crimes such as transnational drug
Australian authorities entered into the investigation in
early 2017 following an exchange of intelligence with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Australian authorities executed 19 search warrants on
premises across four states as part of the international disruption action on 6
March 2018, where more than 1000 encrypted mobile devices were seized. There
was one arrest in Victoria for offences relating to drug possession and
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner
Organised Crime, Neil Gaughan said, “The action taken in the US directly
impacts the upper echelons of organised crime here in Australia and their
associates offshore. Using this equipment, criminals have been able to
confidently communicate securely and control and direct illicit activity like
drug importations, money laundering and associated serious, often violent
criminal offending, yet have remained removed from these criminal acts.”
Assistant Commissioner Gaughan highlighted the importance of
domestic as well as international partnerships, saying, “Close partnerships
have been the key to this operation's landmark success in Australia and
recognition and thanks must go to our many partners in this investigation,
principally the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the New South
Wales Crime Commission. Police in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and
South Australia were also integral to the success while the Australian Tax
Office involvement and information from AUSTRAC was invaluable.”
“International partners at the FBI and RCMP had been
outstanding working methodically around the clock together with Australia on
this unique and complex investigation. Without the cooperation, commitment and
shared drive, Australian law enforcement agencies would not be announcing this
significant result,” he added.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said with one American
dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes, the country is suffering the
deadliest drug epidemic in its history.
He said that the US Department of Justice will aggressively
prosecute not just drug traffickers, but also those who help them spread
addiction and death in communities. He thanked the FBI, DEA, Customs and Border
Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, Washington State Police, the
Bellingham and Blaine Police Departments, and all of the US’ law enforcement
partners around the world, including Australia, Canada, Panama, Hong Kong, and
Thailand for their hard work on this case.
RCMP Criminal Operations Officer, Investigative Services and
Organised Crime Assistant Commissioner, Jim Gresham, said the investigation is
a prime example of law enforcement agencies from around the world working
together to identify, investigate and charge people involved in transnational
Commissioner of the NSW Crime Commission, Peter Bodor QC
described the disruption of the Phantom Secure platform as one of the most
significant blows to organised crime in Australia in the last twelve months.
AUSTRAC National Manager, Intelligence, Dr John Moss said
that AUSTRAC’s financial intelligence and information played a critical role in
helping investigators follow the money trail and identify payments made by
individuals and companies to purchase encrypted communications devices.
NSW Police Force State Crime Commander, Assistant
Commissioner Mal Lanyon, commented, “We will continue to proactively deploy a
variety of strategies and tactics, and harness the reach of our partners, to
strip criminal enterprises of assets and disrupting any activity that impacts
on the community of NSW.”
The AFP will continue to work with the FBI and RCMP offshore
and with domestic partners. Further arrests and charges have not been ruled out
as the investigation continues.
Authorities are also aware of similar platforms, some with
direct connections to Phantom Secure, and their operators are currently under
law enforcement scrutiny.
The 16th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Governance Group (3G) convened on the sidelines of the recently concluded 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which brought together the Troika of the Group of Twenty (G20), representing Indonesia, India, and Brazil, to discuss collaborative approaches to addressing pressing global issues.
As India, in its capacity as the 2023 G20 Presidency, shared the outcomes of the G20 Summit held in New Delhi, there was recognition and applause for the successful Summit, which included the adoption of a consensus Leaders’ Declaration. This achievement underscores the importance of international cooperation and dialogue in tackling complex global challenges.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasised the significance of sustaining a rules-based multilateral trading system, embodied by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He stressed the need for WTO rules to evolve with digital transformation to remain relevant in the modern economy. Additionally, he urged G20 participants to support negotiations on WTO reform, particularly the restoration of a fully-functioning dispute settlement system.
Digital transformation is at the forefront of these discussions, with a recognition that technological advancements require corresponding updates in international trade regulations. As nations leverage digital transformation to foster economic growth, the need for inclusive and equitable trade policies becomes imperative.
Likewise, the commitment of the G20 to sustainable development, low-carbon emissions, and climate resilience aligns with the global community’s efforts to combat climate change. The 3G’s support for these commitments underscores the importance of addressing environmental crises, especially those that disproportionately affect developing countries.
The 3G Ministers highlighted the strain on the rules-based multilateral system amid geopolitical tensions and rising protectionism. They reiterated the importance of upholding international law and human rights principles as embodied in the United Nations Charter. This commitment ensures that the multilateral system remains open, inclusive, and adheres to established rules.
The collaborative approach of the G20, including engaging non-G20 members like the 3G, reflects the importance of broader dialogue and perspectives when addressing global challenges. This approach enhances inclusiveness, coherence, and complementarity in setting global standards and mobilising collective action on shared challenges.
The collaboration also promotes innovative approaches to growing global concerns, ensuring that international governance stays relevant in a continuously changing world. It advances fair trade practices and reduces economic inequality, which benefits a country’s overall economic health.
Further, this partnership enhances international cooperation and diplomacy. It emphasises the value of diplomatic solutions to international problems and strengthens the notion that cooperation and diplomatic communication are essential for resolving difficult global issues.
Singapore believes that in an era of digital transformation and interconnectedness, the collaboration between the 3G and the G20 offers a promising path towards addressing the multifaceted challenges facing the international community.
By leveraging digital transformation, fostering inclusive trade policies, and upholding the principles of international law, these groups are contributing to a more resilient and equitable global governance framework.
As the world grapples with evolving global challenges, the commitment to inclusive and accountable global governance remains essential. The partnership between the 3G and the G20 exemplifies the spirit of international cooperation, where nations work together to navigate the complexities of the interconnected world, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of a better future for all.
A group of talented young engineers and researchers from the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) has achieved international recognition for their groundbreaking innovation, RescueAI: Smart City Disaster Management System with AI and Aerial Robotics. They won a Gold Medal at the 12th World Invention Creativity Olympic (WICO) 2023.
The Turkish Inventors Association (TÜMMİAD) bestowed the Gold Medal Award upon RescueAI, further affirmed by recognition from the Toronto International Society of Innovation & Advanced Skills (TISIAS). WICO 2023, held in Seoul, South Korea, was organised by the Korea University Invention Association (KUIA) and sponsored by the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.
RescueAI is the culmination of efforts by a team of experts and students from APU’s School of Engineering (SoE) and the Center for Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT). This project was led by Dipl-Ing. Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, Mr. Krishna Ravinchandra, Ng Joo Kiat, Cajun Tai Ka Joon, Ang Jia Ze, and Cheng Yi Heng. Their prototype stands as a beacon of progress in the realm of disaster management.
The system’s core capabilities lie in its use of artificial intelligence (AI) and aerial robotics to gather real-time environmental data, encompassing critical factors like weather conditions, structural damage, and the precise location of individuals and assets. This data forms the foundation for the creation of a digital twin of the disaster-stricken area, enabling the simulation of diverse scenarios and the formulation of optimal response strategies.
The team is engaged in the commercialisation of RescueAI, and their aim is to make the system accessible to governments and enterprises worldwide, underscoring the global impact of their innovation.
While RescueAI is at the forefront of its achievements, APU is also making its mark in other arenas. Ng Joo Kiat, Chang Kah Boon, and Cheng Yi Heng, representing APU’s Team Delta, participated in the DB-SNUbiz Global Startup Challenge 2023. This competition featured RescueAI as a project addressing the challenges posed by climate change-induced extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods.
In a significant departure from conventional 2D dashboards, Team Delta conceptualised a 3D Digital Twin model, offering a more intuitive representation of flood and fire disasters. This innovative model facilitates precise flood simulations, anticipating the spread and impact of floods on various locations with accuracy.
Drones equipped with sensors and pre-trained YOLOv8 models play a pivotal role in recording real-time data, which continuously updates the Digital Twin model to ensure data accuracy. Furthermore, the team is in the process of developing a mobile app designed for reporting flood and fire incidents. This app boasts AI detection and alarm functions, streamlining the reporting process and expediting emergency responses.
The achievements of the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) team with RescueAI closely align with the Malaysian government’s larger goals. Malaysia aims to enhance disaster resilience and management, and the innovative Disaster Management System exemplifies this commitment.
Furthermore, by garnering global recognition and showcasing Malaysia’s technological prowess, RescueAI contributes to the government’s agenda of promoting innovation and technology as drivers of economic growth. The project’s success underscores Malaysia’s capacity for innovation, augments economic opportunities in AI and robotics, and positions the nation as a player on the global innovation stage, aligning with the government’s overarching development objectives.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that a robotics company that provides intelligent unmanned delivery solutions for global enterprises recently forged a strategic partnership with the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU). This collaboration is poised to be a significant driver of academic, technological, and industry-sharing initiatives, with the ultimate aim of reshaping the field of robotics and automation.
The partnership was formally solidified through the robotics company’s Malaysian representative and distributor. The representative holds the exclusive distribution rights for service robots in Malaysia, and it also supplies a range of health and wellness products locally and internationally. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at APU’s state-of-the-art campus situated in the vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur.
Recently, the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) and the Thailand Digital Government Academy (TDGA) have joined forces to provide training to raise awareness about cybersecurity. This collaborative effort is designed to enhance participants’ knowledge and comprehension of the fundamental principles and the significance of cybersecurity laws, regulations, and announcements. Moreover, the training seeks to promote awareness of information systems’ safe and secure use.
Panithan Khennanuay, Director of the Cyber Security Department, emphasised the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks in today’s digital landscape, affecting many sectors. As organisations transition into the digital realm, they become more susceptible to cyber threats. These threats can range from data breaches and hacking attempts to ransomware attacks and other malicious activities that can compromise sensitive information and disrupt essential services.
Recognising the evolving nature of these cybersecurity challenges, the collaboration between the DGA and TDGA underscored the importance of equipping individuals and organisations with the knowledge and skills to safeguard their digital assets. The training initiative aims to empower participants to proactively identify and mitigate potential cyber risks, thereby enhancing the overall cybersecurity posture of both the public and private sectors.
Panithan Khennanuay further emphasised that as digital transformation continues to reshape the governance, commerce, and communication landscape, it is imperative to prioritise cybersecurity as an integral component of this evolution. By fostering a cybersecurity-conscious culture and ensuring that individuals and organisations stay well-informed and vigilant, Thailand can better protect its digital infrastructure and sensitive data. “Ultimately, it will contribute to the country’s resilience in the face of cyber threats and bolster its position as a leader in the digital age,” he expressed.
Additionally, Khomkrit Khamsawat, Head of the Service Operations Team, added that the workforce and citizens are crucial to any cybersecurity strategy’s success. As the Head of the Service Operations Team, Khomkrit Khamsawat recognises that a well-informed and cyber-aware workforce is the first line of defence against cyber threats. Employees and citizens alike play pivotal roles in maintaining the security of digital systems and data.
In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, individuals within organisations and the broader public must be educated and trained to recognise and respond effectively to potential security risks. It includes understanding the latest cyber threats, practising good cybersecurity hygiene, and adhering to best practices for secure digital behaviour.
Moreover, citizens and employees should be aware of cybersecurity laws, regulations, and guidelines. Compliance with these measures is essential for protecting critical infrastructure and sensitive information.
The collaboration between the DGA and TDGA not only aimed to equip individuals with the technical knowledge needed to defend against cyber threats but also strives to cultivate a cybersecurity mindset. This cultural shift toward cybersecurity awareness can help foster a safer digital environment for all.
Thailand is taking proactive steps to fortify its defences against cyberattacks by focusing on workforce and citizen education. These efforts will ultimately contribute to the country’s ability to harness the full potential of digital technologies while safeguarding its digital assets and interests.
“Cybersecurity is not just a technical issue but a shared responsibility. It requires collaboration across sectors, proactive measures to stay ahead of emerging threats, and a commitment to ongoing education and awareness,” Mr Khomkrit emphasised. “We are optimistic that with the concerted efforts of organisations, government agencies, and individuals, Thailand can build a robust cybersecurity ecosystem. This ecosystem will not only protect critical infrastructure but also promote innovation, trust, and economic growth in the digital age.”
In a proactive move to bolster digital resilience, Taiwan’s Ministry of Digital Affairs (moda) recently conducted its first-ever “disaster roaming” drill in collaboration with the nation’s three major telecommunications providers.
This exercise, held as part of the “2023 National Disaster Prevention Day Large-Scale Earthquake Disaster Response Mobilisation Exercise,” showcased the critical role of cross-network roaming in ensuring citizens’ access to basic and secure communication during emergencies.
The concept of “disaster roaming” differs from commercial roaming mechanisms. It is a government-driven initiative designed to ensure uninterrupted communication services for the public during significant disasters or emergencies.
In essence, it allows individuals to connect to operational mobile communication networks of other providers, irrespective of their original contracts. This initiative addresses a fundamental need: maintaining communication rights when they matter most.
The recent disaster roaming exercise took place in the Hsinchu County Sports Complex area, strategically chosen due to its high population density. Notably, the exercise was conducted without disrupting nearby base stations, using a “manual network selection” method to facilitate cross-network roaming.
Participants engaged in practical scenarios, from connecting with loved ones to accessing real-time news updates and evacuation information.
One of the key takeaways from this exercise is the importance of cooperation between moda and telecommunications providers. By developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and studying international cross-network roaming frameworks, Taiwan aims to further enhance the disaster roaming mechanism.
This forward-looking approach will ensure that the nation’s communication networks remain resilient and robust, even in the face of major disasters.
The significance of disaster roaming extends beyond mere convenience; it’s about safeguarding citizens’ well-being and ensuring they have access to crucial information during emergencies. This initiative is particularly relevant nowadays as societies become increasingly reliant on digital communication networks for information dissemination, emergency alerts, and coordination during crises.
During her visit to moda, President Tsai Ing-wen underscored the importance of such initiatives in enhancing Taiwan’s overall resilience. In an era where digital connectivity is integral to daily life and critical infrastructure, the ability to maintain communication rights during disasters is paramount.
The disaster roaming programme’s continuation from 2024 to 2025 demonstrates Taiwan’s commitment to preparedness and resilience. By studying global best practices and working closely with domestic telecommunications providers, the country aims to establish a robust disaster response framework. This proactive stance will serve as a model for other nations seeking to enhance their digital resilience.
Reports cited that Taiwan’s disaster roaming initiative stands as a beacon of innovation and preparedness. It reaffirms the government’s commitment to safeguarding its citizens’ communication rights and ensuring that vital information flows even when the unexpected occurs.
Many industries and organisations are subject to regulatory requirements regarding data protection and cybersecurity. Digital resilience helps meet these requirements and avoids legal and financial repercussions.
Also, it ensures that critical government systems and communication networks remain operational during emergencies and can withstand cyber threats from adversaries.
As digital technologies continue to evolve, so too must disaster preparedness strategies. Taiwan’s dedication to enhancing digital resilience through initiatives like disaster roaming demonstrates that the nation is not only adapting to the digital age but also leading the way in ensuring that no one is left disconnected when it matters most.
It is a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to the well-being and safety of its citizens, setting a commendable example for the world to follow.
The Queensland Earth Observation Hub (QLD EO Hub) convened a workshop in Brisbane that served as a significant step in harnessing the potential of Earth Observation (EO) technologies, data, and workflows for the benefit of Australia.
The initial findings from a comprehensive market engagement study were presented. This study spanned a diverse range of EO and industry sectors and aimed to illuminate both the challenges and opportunities that Queensland, and by extension, the broader Australian landscape, faces in embracing EO technologies not only in the present but also in the foreseeable future.
This market study embarked on an extensive consultation process, engaging with stakeholders across urban and rural Queensland. It encompassed the entire spectrum of the EO ecosystem, from data and service providers to end-users, as well as those contemplating the utilisation of EO in the years ahead.
The core objective was to gain profound insights into the current capabilities, hurdles, and potential avenues for growth within Queensland’s EO community. Additionally, it sought to cultivate a vision of what the future could hold in terms of EO technology deployment.
The preliminary findings of this study were shared with workshop participants, fostering constructive discussions, and eliciting valuable feedback. Notably, these findings unveiled several significant opportunities that Australia can capitalize on over the next 2-5 years:
- Collaboration and Alignment: A key opportunity identified is the enhancement of collaboration and alignment among research institutions, industries, and government entities. This entails improving communication to raise awareness of shared needs and capabilities while also facilitating the transfer of skills and knowledge between these sectors. Such collaboration can foster innovation and synergy.
- Commercialisation of Research: The commercialisation of research emerged as another promising avenue. By facilitating partnerships between research organisations and industries, pathways for the practical application of research outcomes can be forged. This approach can bridge the gap between academic research and real-world industry needs.
- Building Capacity for Global Markets: Queensland can further promote its capabilities in EO technologies and services, connecting local industries to national and international markets. This entails not only showcasing Queensland’s strengths but also attracting investments that can fuel the growth of this sector, contributing to the nation’s economic prosperity.
- Workforce Development: Facilitating access to new and in-demand skills and knowledge transfer is vital for nurturing a skilled workforce in the EO sector. Promoting careers in Earth Observation can bolster the human capital needed to support the sector’s growth and innovation.
The insights garnered from this study and the associated workshop will serve as the foundation for crafting a strategic roadmap. This roadmap will guide the Queensland EO Hub in its role of unlocking the future potential of the downstream EO sector, not just for Queensland but for Australia as a whole. Anticipated in the coming months is the release of the full report by SmartSat, which will provide a comprehensive overview of the study’s findings and recommendations.
In a parallel effort to advance the field of Earth Observation, a symposium titled “Advances in Earth Observation: Hyperspectral Data Analysis” was recently hosted by the University of the Sunshine Coast with support from the QLD EO Hub and SmartSat. The symposium aimed to showcase the strides made in remote sensing technology through lectures, hands-on demonstrations, and training sessions. This educational event empowered participants with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively work with spatial data using remote sensing tools, with applications spanning various domains.
The Chief Executive Officer of SmartSat delved into SmartSat’s activities in the realm of water quality, shedding light on initiatives like the AquaWatch mission. Additionally, he provided insights into the upcoming Kanyini mission, which promises to leverage Hyperspectral Imager technology coupled with Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things connectivity. These cutting-edge advancements have the potential to revolutionise how we monitor and manage water quality, offering significant benefits to both Queensland and Australia as a whole.
Attendees had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with tools such as R and ENVI for hyperspectral image analysis, equipping them with practical skills that can be applied to real-world challenges. This knowledge dissemination is vital for bolstering Australia’s technological capabilities in the EO domain.
A comprehensive overview of SmartSat CRC’s Maya Nula program was also presented. This program aims to develop continent-wide crop and yield monitoring capabilities, a critical aspect of agricultural management. By harnessing EO technologies and data, this initiative holds the potential to revolutionize agriculture in Australia, enhancing productivity and sustainability.
Special acknowledgements were extended to Associate Professor Sanjeev Srivastava from the University of South Australia and Dr. Prashant Kumar Srivastava from Banaras Hindu University, India, for their valuable contributions and leadership during the event. Dr. Srivastava’s attendance was supported through the SmartSat Visiting Fellowship scheme, exemplifying the commitment to international collaboration and knowledge exchange.
OpenGov Asia earlier reported that SmartSat, in conjunction with the ACT Government, unveiled a suite of research and development (R&D) projects, signalling a profound commitment to advancing space technology and capabilities in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
This collaboration has seen their joint investment in the ACT’s space endeavours soar past a significant milestone, reaching over AU$7 million. The announcement coincides with the launch of the ACT Space Update 2023, highlighting the organisation’s dedication to contributing to the region’s growing reputation as a hub for cutting-edge space research.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and its federal agency partners have released new guidance concerning a cybersecurity risk posed by deepfakes, a type of synthetic media. This emerging threat poses cybersecurity challenges for National Security Systems (NSS), the Department of Defence (DoD), and organisations within the Defence Industrial Base (DIB).
They have jointly published a Cybersecurity Information Sheet (CSI) titled “Contextualising Deepfake Threats to Organisations” to assist entities in recognising, safeguarding against, and responding to deepfake threats. NSA developed the CSI with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
The term “deepfake” encompasses multimedia content that has been either artificially created or manipulated through machine learning and deep learning technologies, which are forms of artificial intelligence (AI). Other phrases used to describe such synthetically generated or altered media include “Shallow/Cheap Fakes,” “Generative AI,” and “Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).”
Candice Rockell Gerstner, an NSA Applied Research Mathematician with expertise in Multimedia Forensics, emphasised that while the tools and methods for altering authentic multimedia have been in existence for some time, the noteworthy shift lies in the ease and widespread adoption of these techniques by cyber actors. This evolving landscape introduces a fresh set of challenges to national security.
Gerstner pointed out that organisations, as well as their employees, must adapt to this changing environment. They need to identify the tradecraft and techniques associated with deepfakes. Moreover, it is essential to establish comprehensive plans to respond to potential deepfake attacks and mitigate their impact effectively. As cyber adversaries increasingly leverage these technologies, recognising and countering deepfake threats becomes paramount to ensuring national security and safeguarding sensitive information.
The joint Cybersecurity Information Sheet (CSI) provides valuable recommendations for organisations to address the challenges posed by synthetic media threats, particularly deepfakes. The CSI suggests implementing various technologies and strategies to counter this emerging threat.
One key recommendation is adopting real-time verification capabilities, which enable organisations to identify and respond to potential instances of deepfake content swiftly. Passive detection techniques are also emphasised for ongoing monitoring and early detection. Furthermore, the CSI highlighted the importance of safeguarding high-priority officers and their communications, as they are often the targets of deepfake attempts.
In addition to detection, the guidance underscores the significance of minimising the impact of deepfake attacks. This involves information sharing within and across organisations to stay ahead of evolving threats. It also advocates for comprehensive planning and rehearsing of responses to potential exploitation attempts, ensuring that organisations are well-prepared to mitigate the consequences of deepfake incidents. Personnel training is another crucial component, equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge to recognise and respond effectively to synthetic media threats.
The CSI underscores the diverse nature of synthetic media threats, encompassing techniques that jeopardise an organisation’s brand, impersonate its leaders and financial officers, and employ fraudulent communications to gain unauthorised access to networks and sensitive information. These threats highlighted the need for a holistic approach to cybersecurity.
Advancements in computational power and deep learning have facilitated the mass production of fake media, making it more accessible and cost-effective. This not only undermines brands and financial stability but also has the potential to incite public unrest by disseminating false information on critical issues such as politics, society, the military, and the economy.
The CSI draws attention to the concerning availability of deep learning-based algorithms on open-source repositories. These accessible resources pose a security risk, as their application requires minimal technical skill and can be executed using little more than a personal laptop. Consequently, the widespread availability of such tools amplifies the urgency of addressing synthetic media threats.
In light of these evolving challenges, the NSA, FBI, and CISA strongly encourage security professionals to adopt the strategies outlined in the report. By proactively implementing these recommendations, organisations can enhance their resilience to the growing threats posed by synthetic media and deepfakes. This collaborative effort among government agencies and security experts is vital to ensuring the integrity of digital information and safeguarding national security.
The Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, and Minister for the Public Service of Australia provided updates on technology and digital identity-related legislation. The Minister delved into the topic of Digital ID and its significance for Australia’s future.
The primary focus of the address was the introduction of the draft Digital ID legislation, marking the commencement of consultations for the exposure draft. She highlighted that Digital ID is akin to an online version of presenting one’s passport or driver’s license to verify their identity but without relinquishing the physical document. It aims to provide a secure and convenient way to verify identity online.
The draft Digital ID legislation, now open for consultation, represents a significant milestone in Australia’s efforts to create a national Digital ID system. The Minister outlined four guiding principles for this system: security, convenience, voluntariness, and inclusivity. She stressed that Digital ID would remain voluntary, ensuring alternate channels for those who prefer not to use it.
Moreover, Digital ID is seen as a means to enhance inclusion by bringing government services online and extending their accessibility to underserved communities, including individuals with disabilities. However, the Minister emphasised that those unable or unwilling to obtain a Digital ID would still have access to government services through traditional channels.
The current system, which operates without legislation, allows individuals with Digital IDs to verify their identity without repeatedly providing sensitive documents. Nevertheless, it has limitations, as it is not yet a nationwide system and private sector providers cannot verify individuals against government-issued ID documents. The government envisions a national Digital ID system as an important economic, productivity, and security reform, and efforts are underway to address these shortcomings.
To ensure trust, data protection, and choice in the Digital ID system, the draft legislation establishes governance arrangements, a regulator (with the ACCC as the interim regulator), and privacy safeguards. Senator Gallagher emphasised the need for explicit consent for sharing identity information, the secure deletion of biometric data, and the prohibition of using identity data for direct marketing purposes.
Additionally, the Minster announced the formation of an AI taskforce, in collaboration with colleague Ed Husic, to ensure responsible and safe usage of AI across government agencies. AI has the potential to improve productivity within the APS and enhance government services, but it also requires careful management to mitigate risks.
The government is committed to creating boundaries and safeguards for emerging technologies like AI. The AI Taskforce will assess the risks and benefits of different AI systems within the public service.
The upcoming release of the first Long Term Insights Brief on AI and trust in public service delivery was also mentioned. Four key findings from the brief highlighted the importance of designing AI with integrity, preserving empathy in service design, enhancing public service performance, and investing in AI literacy and digital connectivity for all Australians.
The Minister expressed her determination to see the establishment of an Australian Digital ID system through legislation, despite the challenges and opposition. She acknowledged that it has been an eight-year work in progress, but she believes it is a worthy project with significant benefits for individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
The address highlighted the importance of Digital ID legislation and AI governance in shaping Australia’s technological future. These initiatives aim to enhance security, convenience, and inclusivity while safeguarding individuals’ privacy and ensuring responsible AI usage within the public service.
Efforts to advance digital identification in Australia align with the country’s broader initiatives to establish a national Digital ID system, as discussed by the Minster. The focus of one pilot program, reported on by OpenGov Asia earlier, was on enabling individuals to prove their identity without the need for multiple physical documents corresponds to the principles of Digital ID outlined by the Minister, emphasising secure digital verification over physical information exchange.
Additionally, student volunteers from Deakin University demonstrated practical applications of digital identity within the education sector, mirroring the efficiencies mentioned by Senator Gallagher in her speech. These developments reflect Australia’s growing interest and innovation in the digital identification ecosystem.