Speaker Spotlight: Dr Tobias Feakin, Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology
Dr. Tobias Feakin
Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Achieving organisational priorities in 2021-22
Q: Thank you for joining us Dr Feakin. Firstly, as you’re aware, COVID-19 has created an increasingly complex operating environment for Australia’s defence, security and justice agencies. Emerging threats across cyberspace, border management, public safety and military tensions present ongoing challenges for frontline agencies. What are DFAT’s priorities in 2021-22? What are your goals and how do you intend to achieve them?
A: A priority for the Australian Government is to be a trusted and influential leader in cyber and critical technology diplomacy. International engagement that is coordinated and strategic will advance Australia’s objective of a safe, secure and prosperous region enabled by cyberspace and critical technology.
Our goals are set out in the International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy. It provides a framework to guide Australia’s whole-of-Government international engagement across the spectrum of cyber and critical technology issues.
Our priorities in 2021 include engagement on standards, critical technology supply chains and ensuring states understand their obligations to act responsibly in cyberspace.
Mitigating risks to protect Australia's national cyber security
Q: Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen public sector agencies from across levels and areas of government come together to coordinate emergency response and border operations. However, despite this collaboration, each organisation has their own sector-specific goals. In the cyber portfolio, what is the most pressing threat to national security? What needs to be done to mitigate this risk?
A: Threats posed by cyberspace and critical technology are national security threats. These include malicious cyber activity by both state and non-state actors, cybercrime, efforts to reset international law and norms related to cyberspace and critical technology in line with authoritarian governments’ interests, and technology that controls societies rather than enhances. Of most concern is the very real threat posed by technological innovation to the liberal democratic values that underpin the global order.
Ultimately, we face a future where our values are not upheld or respected by technology, and our prosperity, security and social cohesion is at risk if we don’t take action now. Our international engagement must continue to advocate for a cyberspace and technology that is in our interest, and that of our likeminded liberal democratic partners.
Shaping cyberspace and critical technology in line with our nation's interests
Q: We’re excited for you to be joining us at the 7th Australian Security Summit (AuSec) in Canberra on the 17th of August. Now in its 7th year, this event is a chance for over 200+ security, defence and policing professionals to collaborate together and deep-dive into four key areas; Cybersecurity, Border Management, Strategic Infrastructure and Community Safety and Policing. You’ll be featured as part of the Cybersecurity stream. In your opinion, why is this topic essential to national security discourse? Do you have any particular issues you intend to discuss?
A: Cyberspace and critical technology underpin our national security. Reflecting this pervasive and ubiquitous threat posed by technology, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s cyber and technology interests centre on the role of cyber security in the protection of the online environment, especially critical infrastructure.
However, the hardening of networks alone is not enough to protect Australia’s national security interests. This is why the Australian Government, along with likeminded partners, is pursuing a strategic and coordinated approach to shape cyberspace and critical technology in line with our interests and liberal democratic values.
Together with technical cyber security efforts, this coordinated approach protects Australia’s economic and national security, and those of our regional partners. It also works towards the protection and realisation of human rights and freedoms, global economic prosperity, sustainable development and international stability, which will feature in my discussion at AuSec.