Australian Prime Minister Turnbull Government Splashes $240m On Cyber Defence

21 April 2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has admitted for the first time Australia has the ability to launch cyber attacks.

Mr Turnbull revealed offensive cyber capabilities are used to deter possible attacks, which could mean the government employing hackers to disrupt activities overseas.

The admission comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveils Australia's $240 million cyber security strategy, which will focus on closer collaboration with business.

The strategy aims to defend the nation's cyber networks from organised criminals and state-sponsored attackers and sits alongside $400 million in the Defence White Paper for cyber activities.

Mr Turnbull will also announce a new minister assisting the prime minister on cyber security.

The announcement follows an urgent call for an inquiry last year by independent senator Nick Xenophon following reports of a China-initiated breach at the Bureau of Meteorology.

While the government doesn't believe there's yet been a serious cyber attack - which is defined as compromising national security - there are thousands of intrusions every year.

They range from theft of intellectual property to illegally modifying data to seeking ransom to unlock a computer affected by malicious software.

And the government says those types of crimes are becoming more frequent and sophisticated.

"Australians are targets for malicious actors, including serious and organised criminal syndicates and foreign adversaries, who are all using cyberspace to further their aims and attack our interest," Mr Turnbull said.

"We must safeguard against criminality, espionage, sabotage and unfair competition online."

He points to former CIA employee Edward Snowden as an example of how a trusted insider can cause massive disruption, using the illegal disclosure of information as an argument for cultural change.

A report by the ACSC last year found Australian businesses were increasingly becoming targets of cyber espionage - which can undermine profitability and viability.

While difficult to determine the cost to the Australian economy, an industry estimate in 2013 put the figure at $1 billion, the report said.

About $200 million allocated to the strategy is new money, with the remaining funded under the Innovation and Science Agenda.

It includes an education program to raise awareness of cyber intrusions for individuals.


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