A system that monitors the internet and internet-connected devices has caused alarm among Australians who fear they could be hacked, especially after the Government introduced new security controls over the internet last week.
The $1.6 billion network of security and monitoring equipment was built by a Chinese company, GSK, in the early 1990s, and the Government has said it will deploy the system on a national basis within two years.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Andrew Wilson, the chief executive of security firm Symantec.
“I can’t think of any other area of technology that is so susceptible to attack.”
A number of countries have already announced plans to use the technology to monitor the internet, including Canada, Britain and New Zealand, as well as Australia.
The technology has been used in Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine and Belarus, among other countries.
A Symantech spokeswoman said the company did not comment on the security concerns raised by the Australian Government.
Ms Wilson said the Government’s proposal was “fanciful and naive”.
“They’re making the assumption that we have the technology in place to detect any intrusion, and then say this is a terrible thing to do,” he said.
“The problem is that the Australian security apparatus has been designed to be able to detect, identify and block such attacks.”
He said Australia’s system could be used to monitor and block all sorts of online activity, including from countries where the internet is censored or restricted.
“If they have the ability to do that, that’s a big threat,” he told the ABC.
The Government has now announced that the new system will be rolled out in stages.
In November, it announced that it had begun installing security systems across the country to “ensure that our digital infrastructure is secure”.
In the first phase, it will roll out the security systems from Sydney to Melbourne, with further rollout planned for Sydney and Adelaide.
Ms Maitland said it was too early to tell if Australians would be able find out if they had been compromised.
“There’s a lot of people in Sydney who have been exposed to the internet from overseas, so the Government needs to get this right, or it will be an embarrassment for the Australian economy,” she said.