Australia’s Critical Infrastructure Faces Increasing Cyber Threats

Australia’s Critical Infrastructure Faces Increasing Cyber Threats

The critical infrastructure in Australia, including ports, energy grids, and water supplies, has experienced a significant increase in cyber attacks. Over the past year, there have been 143 reported incidents, compared to 95 the previous year. In response to this growing threat, the Federal Minister for Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil, has announced that 168 critical infrastructure assets will require enhanced cybersecurity measures. This is almost double the number of assets previously considered “systems of national significance.”

A recent mathematical breakthrough in cybersecurity may provide a solution to the vulnerabilities faced by critical infrastructure systems. The breakthrough, known as “ineffable cryptography,” allows system access authority to be spread invisibly and securely across a network, eliminating any weak links. This technology, explained in a joint study by Tide and RMIT mathematicians, offers a fundamentally new approach to cybersecurity for critical infrastructure. The study’s lead author, Dr. Joanne Hall, highlighted the multidisciplinary collaboration behind this advancement, incorporating mathematics, cryptography, computing, technology, and business insights.

The mathematical breakthrough has been implemented in a prototype access control system called KeyleSSH, designed specifically for critical infrastructure management. This system has been successfully tested with multiple companies. Traditional approaches to infrastructure access control, such as password protection, have proven to be insecure. Multifactor authentication and key-based access, although considered alternatives, come with their own vulnerabilities and can be overly complicated for users. KeyleSSH, on the other hand, operates by generating and operating keys invisibly across a decentralized network of servers. Each server holds only part of a key, making it impossible for anyone to see the full keys, the processes they are actioning, or the assets they are unlocking.

Enhancing Security and Privacy Beyond Critical Infrastructure

Tide’s ineffable cryptography not only addresses cybersecurity for critical infrastructure but also offers applications in securing identities, health information, financial systems, and privacy in AI applications. The technology’s potential has been scientifically validated through a collaboration between RMIT and Tide, involving top mathematicians, cybersecurity experts, and RMIT’s Chief Information Security Officer. To further test the technology and explore its capabilities in solving critical infrastructure security challenges, a group of cybersecurity students worked with industry partners. This collaboration took place at RMIT’s AWS Cloud Supercomputing Hub, which allows for faster testing and innovation. The resulting project, KeyleSSH, successfully integrated the Tide technology with SSH, a method for remote infrastructure management, and tested it with multiple industry partners.

The solution developed through the collaboration has received enthusiastic feedback from managed service providers involved in the trial. Smart Building Services (SBS) Digital, an Australian company offering smart metering systems to industrial complexes, sees the integration of Tide’s decentralized solution as a way to enhance the security of access controls in their Netstream utility platform. Jonathan Spinks, the Chief Technology Officer of SBS Digital, emphasized the importance of demonstrating the integrity of entities responsible for vital infrastructure in the face of growing geopolitical complexities.

As cyber threats to critical infrastructure continue to rise, the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures becomes paramount. The mathematical breakthrough in ineffable cryptography offers a novel and secure approach to protecting critical infrastructure systems. The successful implementation of the technology in the KeyleSSH prototype access control system demonstrates its potential to enhance security and privacy across various sectors. The collaboration between Tide and RMIT, involving top experts from different fields, has paved the way for innovative solutions that address the complex challenges of cybersecurity in critical infrastructure. With continued research and development, this breakthrough technology may become the new standard for securing critical infrastructure and beyond.


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