Australia to invest $1.35 billion to fight against emerging cyber threats

The Australian government has pledged to invest $1.35 billion over the next decade the develop new capabilities to neutralise and block emerging cyber threats to the country.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister's office announced its proposal to invest up to $1.35 billion over the next decade to strengthen the country's cyber defences to fight against emerging cyber threats. The funds will be provided to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Cyber Security Centre to help them detect and fight cyber attacks.

“The Federal Government’s top priority is protecting our nation’s economy, national security and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines that. My Government’s record investment in our nation’s cyber security will help ensure we have the tools and capabilities we need to fight back and keep Australians safe,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Noting that malicious cyber activity against Australia is increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication, the PMO said the $1.35 billion fund will help protect individuals, businesses, and operators of critical services from cyber threats.

While $31 million will be used to enable the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to disrupt cyber crime offshore, to take the fight to foreign criminals, and to assist law enforcement agencies, over $35 million will be spent on a new cyber threat-sharing platform where both the government and industry will share intelligence about malicious cyber activity and block threats in real-time.

The government also said it will spend over $118 million to boost ASD's data science and intelligence capabilities, over $62 million to deliver a national situational awareness capability, over $20 million to establish cutting-edge research laboratories to better understand threats to emerging technology, and over $12 million towards new strategic mitigations and active disruption options.

As much as $470 million will also be spent to expand the country's cyber security workforce by creating 500 new jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate.

“The package will put our nation on the front foot in combatting cyber threats and our investment in a cyber security workforce will help ensure we have the people we need to meet future cyber challenges,” said Senator Reynolds, the Minister of Defence.

“For example, this package will enable ASD and Australia’s major telecommunications providers to prevent malicious cyber activity from reaching millions of Australians by blocking known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed. This package is one part of our $15 billion investment in cyber and information warfare capabilities that will form part of Defence’s 2020 Force Structure Plan to address the rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape,” he added.

The announcement comes not long after the Prime Minister spoke about "a sophisticated state-based cyber actor" that is currently targeting "Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers, and operators of other critical infrastructure."

PM Morrison said that his government knows the cyber activity is being carried out by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used. What is worrying is that even though cyber activity targeting Australian organisations has been going on for some time, the frequency has been increasing of late.

"The Australian Government is aware of and alert to the threat of cyber-attacks. Our objective is to raise awareness of these specific risks and targeted activities and tell you how you can take action to protect yourself.

"Cyber security is a shared responsibility of us all. It is vital that Australian organisations are alert to this threat and take steps to enhance the resilience of their networks," he added.

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