Feds call for input on Australia’s next cyber security strategy – Strategy – Security


The federal government has begun consulting on the development of Australia’s next cyber security strategy to best position the nation to respond to a changing threat environment.

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton on Friday released a discussion paper [pdf] seeking views to shape the country’s 2020 cyber security strategy.

The strategy will replace the 2016 cyber security strategy, which was the first update to Australia’s national cyber security policy since 2009 and was accompanied by $230 million.  

But with the threat environment fast evolving, the discussion paper points to the need to reconsider the role that governments, businesses and the community play in responding to threats.

“Cyber security has always been a shared responsibility, but it is worth asking whether the balance of responsibilities among these groups is right,” the discussion paper states.

As part of this, the discussion paper also asks “whether government’s role should change to offer greater assistance to Australian businesses to defend against highly sophisticated malicious actors”.

“The Government currently uses its cyber security capabilities within a legislative framework that was established before the internet became a foundational element of our economy, and without a modern perspective on how malicious cyber activity crosses traditional geographical borders,” the paper states.

“Maintaining the confidence of the Australian community is the first priority when considering how and when Government should use its cyber security capabilities.”

The government is particularly concerned about critical infrastructure such as energy, water, telecommunications and transport.

It has already moved to shore-up these industries through new legislation last year aimed at securing around 165 “highest-risk critical infrastructure assets”.

The new strategy, which Dutton said would build on the foundations established through the 2016 strategy, will be developed with input from industry, research partners and community groups.

“Strong collaboration and partnerships are vital to ensure this strategy is well positioned to tackle the cyber security challenges we face as a nation,” he said.

He said a panel of cyber security experts would also be appointed in the “coming weeks” to guide the development and implementation of the strategy.

Submissions to the discussion paper will close November 1.

Progress on 2016 strategy

With only one annual update of the 2016 cyber security strategy released to date, the government also used the discussion paper to provide its second annual progress report.

The progress update reveals that 25 of the 33 goals set in the 2016 strategy are now complete, with eight ongoing or having been updated.

Only six goals had been completed at the time of the only other annual update, which was released in April 2017.

Dutton described the latest progress against the goals as “strong” in the discussion paper’s foreword, but said the government needed to adapt its approach in light of the changing threat environment.

Much of the progress relates to the reorganisation of Australia’s cyber operations, including co-locating the government’s cyber security functions in the Australian Cyber Security Centre, and building capacity within the law enforcement agencies.

Other completed actions include creating Joint Cyber Security Centres in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, as well as establishing the Cyber Security Growth Network.

While the majority of five incomplete goals are relate to ongoing partnerships with other governments, businesses and education providers, one reveals that annual cyber security leaders’ meetings have not been held since 2017.

The three “updated approach” actions relate to improving the cyber security of government agencies through a “rolling program of independent assessments” and take into account funding at the last federal budget for sprint teams.

“ASD is using new technology solutions to improve agency cyber hygiene at scale. This includes automated scanning tools to identify vulnerabilities in external facing systems across government,” the paper states.

“Dedicated technical ‘Sprint Teams’ have also been created to uplift cyber security for select Australian Government agencies.

“In addition to improving cyber hygiene these Sprint Teams will create a situational awareness of the maturity across these agencies of their implementation of the Essential Eight Maturity Model.”


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Woolies primes Olive AI for call centre action – Cloud – Software


WooliesX’s Joshua Rogers.

Woolworths wants its virtual assistant dubbed ‘Olive’ to ease the workload of its customer contact centre by illuminating options to access information about orders or retail locations.

It’s a pivot that will pit the new artificial intelligence bot against human call centre agents in a test it hopes will boost self navigation to boost satisfaction and drive down costs.

At a time of intense competition Woolies between retailing rivals, the grocery giant isn’t exactly putting Olive’s achievements up in lights. But it is talking behind the scenes.

iTnews first reported Woolworths was working on a large-scale conversational AI platform back in January, before revealing some of the architecture and use cases for Olive earlier this month.

Some of this was drawn from slides presented at the Google Cloud Next 19 conference in San Francisco in April.

iTnews has since obtained access to the presentation itself, providing a clearer picture on why Woolworths went down the path to create Olive, as well as the assistant’s architectural make-up.

Joshua Rogers, platform technology manager at the retailer’s digital arm WooliesX, told the conference that Olive exists in the first instance to ease pressure on what Woolworths calls its ‘Customer Hub’ – a contact centre staffed by about 400 agents.

“We started with a very simple task to make sure that we take a real customer impacting event as well as a real business impacting event and we married them together,” Rogers said. 

“Our customers call up our Customer Hub and they want to know specific information – information that’s very readily available, but they don’t have any other way to get it. 

“Calling up our Customer Hub takes up time. 

“There’s a lot of other activities that our Customer Hub endeavours in that take up a lot more time than they probably need to.”

Rogers said there are currently four ways to interact with Olive. 

Customers can interact via a text-based chatbot on the Woolworths Online website, via a Google Home device, via the Hub’s IVR, or via Google Hangouts.

“Olive is able to analyse customer inquiries, align their intents with actionable workflows, and then take that data, package it up and present it back to the consumers in a consumable way,” Rogers said.

“We have features like our store locator and hours of operation. We also have features to modify your lists, manage your shopping list, and answer any frequently asked questions that you might have.”

The voice-based channels are enabled in part using a Google cloud-hosted service called Dialogflow, while the chat-based interface uses technology from a start-up, Inbenta.

The backend of Woolworths’ digital applications is largely microservices-based/containerised and “hosted within GKE” – Google Kubernetes Engine.

These then call on other services and sources of data to complete the customer’s request – a process facilitated with API gateway technology from Google-owned Apigee.

“We operate through Apigee to our backend services to find the data that we need to deliver the experience that we want, [and] funnel it back into applications in GKE which prepares it for delivery to the customer,” Rogers said.

“The key factor there is we have backend services that have our data that the customers want to have access to, and they want to be comfortable accessing that data. 

“They want to be able to interface with our business in the ways that they’re most easily available to them.”

Rogers demonstrated how different parts of a transaction could be completed in an integrated fashion using Olive and other Woolworths’ digital properties.

He used Google Home to talk to Olive to find location information and opening hours for his nearest Woolworths store.

He then used voice commands to add items to a “shopping list” – such as milk – before switching to Woolworths Online on his laptop to complete the order.

At a separate SAP conference in Sydney earlier this month, Olive was used to help customers arrange refunds for items that went missing or were damaged in transit.

The retailer has also previously discussed how Olive can be accessed by customers that hit the Customer Hub IVR seeking outage information about Woolworths’ digital services.

While much of the Olive experience is currently focused on Woolworths Online operations, the aim is for Olive to eventually handle information requests and customer problems from across its portfolio of retail brands.

“We want to make sure that it’s not just our Woolworths Online experience that they have access to Olive but also our BWS, Big W, Dan Murphy’s, our money and financial services,” Rogers said.

“We also want [customers] to be comfortable and connect to us in any way that they would like – over Facebook Messenger, Alexa, and digital assistants of any kind.”


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$159 for this Acer Chromebook is what we call a Good Deal™


Welcome to CHEAP, our series about things that are good, but most of all, cheap. CHEAP!

It could just be me, but I love having a cheap second computer. Of course, I couldn’t live without a high-end machine to do complex, resource-intensive work on. But sometimes I just want a little device I can take with me everywhere, and not worry too much about it breaking or being stolen.

If you’re looking for this sort of computer, Chromebooks are a great option. And, would you believe it, there’s currently a banging deal on a Chromebook from Acer!

Yes, for only $159 (down from $229, making this a 30 percent saving), you can get yourself the excitingly named Acer 15 CB3-532-C8DF 15.6″ Chromebook.