Cyber war games to test agencies' ability to respond to hackers
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Cyber war games to test agencies' ability to respond to hackers

When you think of Canberra's best and brightest devising strategies to protect Australians from cyber threats, most of us would imagine shadowy spies deep in a defence building in Russell.

But next week public servants from a range of departments, as well as some private-sector hackers from big companies, will be holed up in Tuggeranong as they take part in cyber war games.

A lego city will show when the hackers are successful in disabling networks as part of the Department of Human Services' cyber war games.

A lego city will show when the hackers are successful in disabling networks as part of the Department of Human Services' cyber war games.

It's the second year the Department of Human Services has hosted the games, where cyber security specialists put their hacking skills to the test in a simulation of an all-out foreign attack.

As well as Human Services, public servants from the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Federal Police, ASIO, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Department of Home Affairs will be involved.

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In this year's games, called Operation Shell Breaker, those involved will have to protect the fictional island nation of Shell Cove, and its main city Shell Cove City from a major attack. While the teams will be taking turns to both attack and defend the island through cyber space, a large-scale lego model of the city will be used to show how the attack impacts on infrastructure like transport, power and water supplies.

This year the private sector was invited to get involved, to build relationships that may need to be called on if a cyber attack moved out of game mode and into the real world. Utility and infrastructure companies like AGL, Transgrid, Woolworths and the Commonwealth Bank are among 12 private sector organisations taking part in the games.

DHS national manager of cyber security Narelle Devine with a lego model used in the cyber war games last year.

DHS national manager of cyber security Narelle Devine with a lego model used in the cyber war games last year.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said bringing the private sector in with the public sector mirrored how they would need to work together in the event of an attack.

"The Department of Human Services already has strong cyber security systems in place to safeguard our welfare system, and I know that other agencies are equally well equipped,” he said.

"But the nature of malicious attacks are constantly evolving and events like the Cyber War Games help us to sharpen our skills and to stay ahead of the curve."

The Department of Human Services won the event last year, and is hoping to do so again when event takes place at the department's cyber security facility between September 12 and 14.

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.