ACT Government systems “not rated to receive security classified information”

Dominic Giannini 13 January 2021 8
Manilla folders with paperclip and Top Secret stamp

ACT Government systems are not rated to receive security classified information. Photo: File.

Five weeks before the head of the ANU’s National Security College called Australian states and territories “weak links” to national security, incoming ACT ministers were warned that ACT Government systems are “not rated to receive security classified information”.

The Australian Government regularly issues classified information subject to stringent security requirements at the protected, secret or top-secret level, but “the ACT Government’s ICT system is not rated to receive security classified information”, the brief said.

Professor Rory Medcalf said states and territories needed officials with high-level security clearances who could access classified security information to help counter foreign influence and cyberattacks.


READ MORE: National Security College boss says foreign powers view states and territories as “weak links”


“States and territories are where it gets real,” he said.

“They don’t deal with the abstractions of diplomatic talking points or strategic analysis, but the tangible day-to-day elements of national resilience and national vulnerability – critical infrastructure, frontline geography, and the daily decisions and livelihoods of Australian citizens.”

An ACT Government spokesperson said national security classified information is not transmitted or stored on the general ACT Government ICT network.

Highly classified documents, such as those viewed by the Chief Minister ahead of National Cabinet deliberations, can only be viewed in designated secure rooms. The same protocols are applied when Chief Ministers and Premiers video-link for National Cabinet.

“The ACT Government uses Australian Government equipment to send and receive national security classified information,” the spokesperson said.

“The ACT Government has ensured is has the right people with the right clearances in the right positions to access and use national security classified information to help keep Canberrans safe.

“ACT Government employees requiring access to National Security classified material, systems or infrastructure are vetted to the appropriate level by the Commonwealth Australian Government Security Vetting Agency within the Department of Defence.”

The revelation came after an ACT Auditor General report in June 2020 found that 89 per cent of critical ICT systems did not have a current system security risk management plan, and “there is a low level of data security awareness among staff in most agencies examined in the audit”.

That number has since come down, but of the more than 2,200 cybersecurity incidents the Australian Cyber Crime Centre responded to in a year, more than a third were directed towards Australian Government or state and territory government entities.


READ MORE: Cybersecurity audit criticises ACT Government on the same day PM reveals national cyber attack


The ministerial briefing also noted that while Australia’s terrorism threat level remains ‘probable’, there is an increasing threat from right-wing extremism.

“Australian individuals, largely consisting of white men, are being drawn to and adopting extreme right-wing ideologies,” it says.

“While there is no current information to suggest current attack planning, including in relation to COVID-19, an extreme right-wing attack in Australia is plausible in the next 12 months.”


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8 Responses to ACT Government systems “not rated to receive security classified information”
Ray Ez Ray Ez 8:02 pm 14 Jan 21

And the people operating them, the politicians, are also not rated to receive classified information.

    Phil Andrews Phil Andrews 9:29 pm 14 Jan 21

    Ray Ez nor do they know what or how - despite being advised accordingly (the B team)

steveu steveu 5:06 pm 14 Jan 21

I would suggest that this is more symptomatic of the protected approach to IT throughout ACT government.
Directorates and ministers still continue to acquire IT solutions without consultation with the people who they then expect to support it, and there have been numerous examples where money has been spent, for them to find that it is not supportable because they failed to engage or consult the staff who they expected to do this function.

Master_Bates Master_Bates 5:05 pm 14 Jan 21

“Professor Rory Medcalf said states and territories needed officials with high-level security clearances who could access classified security information to help counter foreign influence and cyberattacks.”

To be honest, it is often those who can access classified security information who cause leaks through foreign influence and cyberattacks.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:16 pm 14 Jan 21

““While there is no current information to suggest current attack planning, including in relation to COVID-19, an extreme right-wing attack in Australia is plausible in the next 12 months.”

Rubbish.

    I am a Rabbit™ I am a Rabbit™ 6:07 pm 14 Jan 21

    ASIO disagrees with you there – while Sunni Islamic extremism is the most likely, the right-wing extremists are up there with them.

    “At the same time, right-wing extremists are more organised, sophisticated, ideological and active than previous years. While we have been actively monitoring the threat for some time, this year extreme right-wing individuals comprised around one-third of our counter-terrorism investigative subjects.” https://www.asio.gov.au/asio-report-parliament.html

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:26 am 15 Jan 21

    Quoting from the same report it’s hard to argue with the assigned opinions of the so called “right wing extremists” when they allegedly say “Many of these groups and individuals have seized on COVID-19, believing it reinforces the narratives and conspiracies at the core of their ideologies. They see the pandemic as proof of the failure of globalisation, multiculturalism and democracy, and confirmation that societal collapse and a ‘race war’ are inevitable.”

    At the same time, ASIO has become more political and statements like this tend to appease the left who are becoming the majority, globally.

    dolphin dolphin 8:57 pm 14 Jan 21

    the mystery of the guy advising the Capitol city police in Washington is revealed at last!

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