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Cybersecurity centre to defend democracy

Technology

Australia and the United States are joining forces to battle online threats such as fake news and foreign meddling in elections through a new cybersecurity centre in Adelaide.

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Researchers at the South Australian centre will work with US partners to improve the capacity of governments and industry to respond to cyber challenges and threats.

The Flinders University centre is named in honour of Jeff Bleich, special counsel to former US President Barack Obama and a diplomat who served as Ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013.

The Jeff Bleich Centre for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security and Governance will examine areas of mutual concern between Australia and the United States in a bid to combat the use of digital technologies to undermine trust and security in democratic societies.

Through research, the centre will attempt to tackle foreign meddling in democratic elections, the proliferation of fake news and threats to national security.

Ambassador Bleich said the disruptive costs of the digital revolution on democracy included deliberate efforts to impair individual, corporate and government decision-making through corrupt, distorted, or false information campaigns.

“We know that the advent of digital technology has fundamentally changed the way we each work, eat, shop, and live. But it has also changed our societies and how we defend ourselves,” he said.

“Our nations — both separately and together—must operate in new ways to preserve our values and protect our people and allies in new battle spaces.

“This is the mission of the Jeff Bleich Centre for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security, and Governance.

“Flinders is the ideal home for the centre with its long-term track record in American studies, its focus on disruptive technologies, and its successful binational programs.”

The centre, which is being launched in the South Australian capital Adelaide today, is based in the Flinders University College of Business, Government and Law.

It is the first research centre in Australia to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to social science through a combination of technology, security and governance.

Ambassador Bleich will also be named a Flinders University Professorial Fellow.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the centre would create opportunities for industry, particularly defence, government and NGOs to work with the university to address cybersecurity issues.

“The Jeff Bleich Centre will undertake research to identify reforms, including regulatory models, that preserve the gains of the digital revolution, but enhance the protection of democratic freedoms, and restore trust in the institutions of democratic societies,” he said.

“The centre aligns with the South Australian and Federal Governments’ cyber security plans and will further strengthen South Australia’s position as Australia’s defence state.

“It will consolidate Flinders University’s research expertise and strengths in digital technologies, security and governance, and build upon Flinders existing strengths in US policy studies and the university’s strong US alliance.”

The centre’s launch follows the release of the 2019 Lowly Institute Annual Poll, which ranks cybersecurity as the most significant threat to Australia’s vital interests after climate change.

The Jeff Bleich Centre has been established by Flinders University with additional funding from private sector donors and is seeking to grow through philanthropic support, additional external fundraising, and research contracts.

A five-member advisory board will be appointed to provide strategic guidance and direction for the centre.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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