AFP CTO on countering common IT challenges

Published on the 22/05/2024 | Written by Heather Wright

AFP CTO on countering common IT challenges

Cloud, SD-Wan, Leo and Sase for the win…

The Australian Federal Police have turned to SD-Wan, secure access service edge (Sase), low earth orbit satellite and cloud to cope with expanding network and data requirements and counter climate change challenges.

Kristin Auld, CTO for Australian Federal Police, urged organisations to make climate changes impact on IT and business continuity a core strategy issue.

“Rather than having to bring our people to the data we can bring our data to the people.”

“Disaster preparation and recovery are really key to resilience, and you need to focus on these things – so backups, the replication of our offsite locations, we need to think more broadly about the locations of our offshore locations, nimble cloud architecture has become really important and we need multiple ways to connect and communicate.”

Auld told attendees at the Gartner’s IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference this week that the AFP’s work is often transnational. Alongside the 85 offices and sites within Australia it has around 33 internationally, as well as working with governments and law enforcement agencies globally, conducting operations in partnership with other agencies and sharing intelligence.

Just like any other organisation, AFP has seen increased network traffic and business data in recent years. Increasing use of collaboration tools and the constant flows of data created latency issues, while ‘much bigger’ documents, increasingly large data analytics and demands for AI were driving data growth.

“The type of data we collect, the size of the data we collect and the complexity of that data is quite significant and quite different to a lot of other government agencies,” Auld says.

She noted Operation Ironside, a long-term investigation into transnational and serious organised crime, begun in 2018 and involving agencies including the FBI. It resulted in confiscation of more than 12,000 devices in Australia, with all the information on the devices – around nine petabytes of data – now sitting on AFP infrastructure.

“You can only imagine if that is just one operation four years ago, what we are having to compete with now with the amount of data and information that we are collecting through digital forensics.”

When cybercriminals are chased down globally – often in second and third world countries – data from their servers which can amount to ‘hundreds and hundreds of terabytes’ is also brought back to the AFP.

“At the moment we don’t have the network capabilities to be able to bring it back, so often it is faster for us to fly over there, pick up the server and bring it back.”

That data, she notes is also often dirty and malware-ridden.

The increasing technical nous of criminals, and the democratisation of technology enabling them to quickly tap new offerings, adds a further layer of challenge.

“So what are we doing about it?”

“We’re implementing SD-Wan… to securely connect our users but also give us the flexibility to manage our network traffic appropriately and provide the flexibility, particularly to our network team in terms of how they manage our data trafficking across. But more importantly, the experience for the end user is going to be a lot better.”

Auld says AFP is also doing a lot of work migrating services to the cloud to provide flexibility and agility in architecture, while adding resilience and redundancy and taking data to the edge.

“Rather than having to bring our people to the data we can bring our data to the people where our experts are to do the analytics.”

The lynchpin, or unifying piece, is the SASE, she adds.

“That enables us to bring our security anywhere at anytime to our devices and really is the game changer for us in terms of building a resilient and flexible environment for our members anywhere in the world.”

Those technologies also come to bear on the challenge of climate change.

“Whether or not you agree it exists, what we can agree on is that the planet is experiencing much greater weather swings and events that have really unprecedented and catastrophic impact on our environment and will do so on our business,” she says.

For businesses, that brings an increasing IT impact around business continuity.

“If we are getting higher temperatures, we have to increase cooling in our data centres. We also have to consider our infrastructure and our resiliency, and it’s really becoming, and should be, a core strategy issue for all of us in this space.”

The issue of ensuring communications continue in the face of disasters is key.

“We are looking at the role of low earth orbit (Leo) satellites and how that might assist us to ensure we have far more resilience and redundancy in our communications.”

Leo satellites have already been used to aid the AFP when it provided support in the Solomon Islands during the elections, providing increased connectivity and much greater oversight over activities, she says. It’s also been launched recently in Norfolk Island to increase the ability to connect and transfer data ‘quite significantly’.

However she noted some challenges remain, including speed, capacity and throughput being ‘less than optimal for business at the moment’, and poorer coverage in the Southern Hemisphere. She referenced Amazon’s Project Kuiper, due to start launching later this year for their focus on the Southern Hemisphere and the new technology around meshing which is being deployed in their Leo satellites.

Security considerations also need to be taken into consideration.

“Who owns them with is important for the AFP, but also things like non-static IP ranges and while we can do lots of things to work around that and make it more secure, it’s not ideal,” she says.

“There are exciting things ahead and … we intend to address the challenges not just of cybercrime and other criminal activity, but the challenge of climate change.”

Post a comment or question...

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Follow iStart to keep up to date with the latest news and views...