Australia to invest in cyber warfare capabilities

Australia to invest in cyber warfare capabilities

First defence whitepaper in 10 years points to greater cyber warfare capabilities for the armed forces

Australia will develop greater cyber warfare capabilities as part of a $70 billion strategy announced in a Federal Government whitepaper at the weekend.

In its first defence whitepaper for 10 years, the Government said it will establish a Cyber Security Operations Centre within the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) staffed by Defence force and Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) personnel to coordinate responses to cyber threats.

“Our national security could potentially be compromised by cyberattacks on our defence, wider governmental, commercial or infrastructure-related information networks. The potential impacts of such attacks have grown with Defence's increasing reliance on networked operations. Therefore, we must focus on developing capabilities that allow us to gain an edge in the cyberspace domain, and protect ourselves,” the paper stated.

Although not revealing much detail due to its highly classified status, the whitepaper pointed to increased funding and a greater focus on developing cyber warfare capabilities.

“While this capability will reside within Defence and be available to provide cyber warfare support to ADF [Australian Defence Forces] operations, it will be purpose-designed to serve broader national security goals. This includes assisting responses to cyber incidents across government and critical private sector systems and infrastructure.

“Whole-of-government coordination will be achieved through the appropriate representation within the Centre from relevant Government agencies. Those agencies include the Attorney-General's Department, which has the lead on e-security programs for Government and the private sector, as well as the Australian Federal Police and relevant agencies of the Australian intelligence community,” the paper stated.

Key to the cyber warfare strategy will be the research and development work of the 2300 staff at DSTO – which has major research facilities in Melbourne and Adelaide – and continued cooperation with allies like the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand through the Technical Cooperation Program.

“Australia's self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities will become a relatively more critical element of our strategic capability advantage, as will collaboration with our scientifically and technologically advanced allies and friends, particularly the United States, and access to special technologies and capabilities,” the paper said.

In the first few years, the prime areas for engagement for DSTO will include Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), cyber warfare, electronic warfare, underwater warfare and networked systems.

“The Government has decided to fund a significant program of enhanced external engagement between the DSTO and its national and international partners, which will focus on the critical science and technology areas where Australia must innovate in order to maintain its strategic capability advantage,” the paper stated.

The whitepaper is titled Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific Century; Force 2030 and is available here.

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