Government eyes regional cyber security boost

Begins soliciting proposals for Cyber Cooperation Program

The government has begun accepting proposals for a grants program aimed at boosting the cyber security capabilities of nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop announced in May 2016 that the budget would earmark $1 million per year over four years for the cyber cooperation program.

The program, which is part of Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), will offer grants of up to $100,000 per project, which may have a timeframe of up to two years — although the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said that proposals outside the funding and time range may be considered “in exceptional circumstances”.

DFAT said it would welcome projects that include co-funding by another country, organisation or the private sector.

The program is a component of the government’s national cyber security strategy — launched in April last year — which states Australia will “build cyber capacity in the Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere, including through public–private partnerships”.

“Australia needs to partner internationally to ensure our cyber engagement advances our security and economic interests, as well as our values,” the document states. “The Government will publish an international engagement strategy to help guide our bilateral and regional cooperation on cyber security.

“But the private sector and research community can and must be part of the international cyber agenda—only then can we promote all Australians’ interests in cyberspace.”

The program will be overseen by Australia’s ambassador for cyber affairs. The government announced in November that it had appointed Dr Tobias Feakin, director of national security programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, to the newly created position.

DFAT said it is seeking proposals that align with four key thematic areas. The first is “raising cyber security capability and awareness”.

“Proposals are encouraged which build the cyber security awareness and/or capability of countries in the Indo-Pacific across public, private and civil society,” DFAT’s guidance for bidders states.

Examples could include assisting with the establishment and strengthening of Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), helping draft national cyber security strategies, and improving the cyber security of government agencies.

The second theme is combating cyber crime ‘safehavens’, examples of which could include improving law enforcement interoperability in cyber crime cases and strengthening cyber skills in law enforcement.

The third theme is digital economy and the online delivery of government services.

“Proposals are encouraged that promote the development and security of e-commerce and the digital economy in the Indo-Pacific, including secure electronic payment systems,” DFAT’s guidance states.

The final theme is international cyber policy, such as strengthening the understanding of the application of international law to cyberspace.

Initial project bids for the first round of the Cyber Cooperation Program are due on 17 February.

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