Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP

PM to unveil $1.3bn cyber security plan

Australia will today launch the biggest counter attack to foreign espionage and malicious cyber attacks in history with a whopping $1.35 billion campaign to block incursions to our critical systems.

The move comes in the wake of the government's revelation earlier this month of a massive and sustained cyber attack program on the nation's critical infrastructure, government agencies and institutions including hospitals by a foreign power largely suspected to be China.

The huge new outlay forms part of the much anticipated 2020 Defence White Paper which outlines Australia's future defence plans, already delayed due to COVID-19.

 

Australian Signals Directorate will receive the $1.35 billion over 10 years and see hundreds of new positions created. Picture: Supplied
Australian Signals Directorate will receive the $1.35 billion over 10 years and see hundreds of new positions created. Picture: Supplied

 

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the premier agency responsible for cyber warfare and signals intelligence interception, will receive the money over 10 years and see more than 500 new positions created.

"The Federal Government's top priority is protecting our nation's economy, national security and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines that," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"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."

The package - dubbed Cesar or Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response - includes $31 million for the ASD to combat cybercrime offshore and $20 million for cutting edge laboratories to create threat mitigation technology.

Earlier this month, Mr Morrison took the extraordinary step of publicly condemning an unnamed foreign power for targeting the country for the industrial-scale cyber attacks.

"This activity is 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," he said.

He declined to name the perpetrators but said only a few State-based actors had the capability and sophistication to mount such a sustained attack designed to steal commercial and intellectual property intelligence, disrupt sovereignty or test vulnerabilities for exploitation.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the record investment would help keep Australians safe. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the record investment would help keep Australians safe. Picture: AAP

China was the prime suspect although its foreign ministry moved swiftly to reject the suggestion as "baseless and nonsense" and instead blamed a US arms funded policy think-tank for inventing the claim.

The cyber hack statement by Prime Minister Morrison followed an exclusive report by News Corp of the biggest detection since the 1980s of Chinese and other foreigners brazenly attempting to steal our military secrets through supply chain networks of dozens of small to medium firms, feeding the multi-billion dollar land, air and sea defence development programs.

The same state-based cyber actor had the same signature and modus operandi as those who hacked federal parliament last year.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the big investment would have a real impact on the cyber security for all Australians.

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

"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."

Originally published as PM to unveil $1.3bn cyber security plan


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