NSW ‘vulnerable’ to cyber attacks on elections

 

NSW is vulnerable to foreign countries targeting our elections in cyber attacks, with the state's Electoral Commissioner warning funding constraints had left the agency unable to comply with the government's mandatory cyber ­security policies.

There is also a "significant" threat of a cyber attack on the upcoming local government elections, Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt said in documents provided to state parliament.

Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt NSW is vulnerable to foreign countries targeting its elections in cyber attacks.
Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt NSW is vulnerable to foreign countries targeting its elections in cyber attacks.

It comes after the Auditor General found the government approved only a quarter of the $33.8 million in extra funding requested by the Electoral Commission in 2019-20.

In answers to a budget estimates hearing last month, Mr Schmidt said the commission "sought specific funding to defend … against cyber security threats" as part of the budget process this year.

He said the commission "was not successful in its previous three funding proposals to address this issue", other than for funding to create a business case which was not approved.

"Lack of adequate investment in the cyber security of NSW electoral systems and personnel over time has meant that the commission does not comply, and cannot comply in the ­immediate future, with the NSW public sector's mandatory cyber security policies," he warned.

Among the threats the commission is currently focused on, he said, was the "recent proliferation of nation state ­actors undertaking sophisticated cyber security activities".

He said NSW elections are "vulnerable to this threat" due to funding constraints that have crippled cyber­security capability. It follows a report from the Auditor-General last year which found there was "inadequate transparency" about how funding decisions for the Electoral Commission were made by the government.

Labor's Public Services spokes­woman Sophie Cotsis labelled the decision to knock back funding requests as "outrageous", adding: "The NSW Electoral Commissioner should not have to beg the Berejiklian government for funds to ensure the next state election is protected from hackers, foreign interference and system crashes."

Originally published as NSW 'vulnerable' to cyber attacks on elections

 



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