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"Tip Of The Iceberg": Australia's Cyber War-Games

Zoe van der Merwe explores the Cyber War Games, the first of its kind in Australia, which aims to prepare critical infrastructure to face the next significant data hack.


Following growing numbers of data breaches and concerns of cybersecurity practices, in April it was announced that Australia’s largest financial companies and banks would be asked to partake in a series of war-game exercises. These exercises would simulate and test how critical infrastructure would respond to potentially catastrophic cyberattacks. [1]


The Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil, stated that the breaches of Medibank, Optus and Latitude were only the “tip of the iceberg.” [2] She said that “when Optus and Medibank hit, we didn’t have plans in place, we didn’t have clear rule books about who would do what, and that’s what we’re trying to fix at the moment.” [3]


The federal government has already begun, focusing first on the economic sector. O’Neil revealed, “we’re conducting exercises where we play through what it would look like to have a major bank, for example, come down in a cyberattack.” [4] She said they would examine, “how would [the] government work with that company to get services back online? If one of our big four banks is down, who can assist in providing services to those customers? How can we make sure the country continues to function properly while we solve the problem?” [5]


Exercises will be held with individual banks, before moving to address other critical networks such as hospitals and traffic networks. [6]


While O’Neil admitted all cyberattacks could not be prevented, the impact on the lives of Australians could be minimised. Advances in technology, specifically the rise of artificial intelligence, brings forth unprecedented opportunities for hackers to exploit sensitive data. She reassured that despite growing threats, “We want to make this muscle so finessed and strong that when we confront cyberattacks, citizens can be confident we’ve thought through how we’re going to handle it and we are executing on a plan that we’ve set out.” [7]


With the inevitability of another cyberattack, only time will tell if these exercises aid in safeguarding the personal data of millions of Australians, and likewise protect the critical structures underpinning our nation.




[1] Knott, Matthew. “‘Consider What Damage Could be Caused’: Government Launches Cyber ‘War Games’ for Major Banks.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/consider-what-damage-could-be-caused-government-launches-cyber-war-games-for-major-banks-20230410-p5czbj.html.

[2] Hurst, Daniel. “Australia Faces ‘Dystopian’ Future of Cyber-Attacks Targeting Fabric of Society, Clare O’Neil Says.” The Guardian, 4. Apr 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/04/australia-facing-dystopian-future-of-cyber-attacks-targeting-fabric-of-society-clare-oneil-says.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Morse, Dana. “Banks to Undergo Cyber War Games in a Bid to Ensure Customers' Data is Safe.” ABC News, 11 Apr. 2023, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-11/clare-oneil-cyber-war-games-companies-hacks/102207244.

[7] Ibid.


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