Government "Big Brother" to get cyber-threat unit

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will host the government's newly announced Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection, which will issue warnings to both government and private sector of so-called 'cyber-threats'.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will host the government's newly announced Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection, which will issue warnings to both government and private sector of so-called "cyber-threats".

According to State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, the centre will have a budget of $850,000 and a set-up cost of over $250,000. It will be based in the Wellington headquarters of the GCSB, the agency tasked with monitoring "foreign signals intelligence" and which currently has no legal standing in New Zealand.

The centre will have three roles: providing 24-hour "watch and warn" advice about threats from viruses and hacking; analysing and investigating threats in order to improve New Zealand's protection; and assisting owners of critical infrastructure to identify and understand their vulnerabilities.

"I will soon require departments to meet certain IT security standards to ensure security of infrastructure," says Mallard in a statement.

The GCSB is currently before Parliament, but does not make mention of the new centre. The centre will not have any powers of arrest but will advise police on how to proceed in matters of "cyber-threats".

In February, the State Services Commission released a report into threats to New Zealand's critical infrastructure. Entitled Protecting New Zealand’s Infrastructure From Cyber-Threats, it advised making changes to legislation and signalled the possible creation of a "government unit to monitor IT security and risks and provide training and assistance on the issue".

One major problem the report outlined is that most of New Zealand’s infrastructure is no longer in government’s hands and so it has problems gathering information for the report itself, let alone assessing risk or recommending a course of action.

The electricity lines companies are singled out in this respect.

“The project team has been unable to gather any information about the protection of electricity lines companies’ infrastructure assets" said the report.

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