Morrison Government to Create a Cyber Force in Defence Department

June 30, 2020 Updated: June 30, 2020

The Morrison government will make the nation’s largest-ever investment into cybersecurity over the next ten years with the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package.

In a media release on June 30, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the federal government would invest $1.35 billion over the next decade to enhance Australia’s cybersecurity capabilities and cyber readiness.

Morrison said that the record investment would mean Australia can “identify more cyber threats, disrupt more foreign cybercriminals, build more partnerships with industry and government, and protect more Australians.”

“The Federal Government’s top priority is protecting our nation’s economy, national security, and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines that,” said Morrison.

“My government’s record investment in our nation’s cybersecurity will help ensure we have the tools and capabilities we need to fight back and keep Australians safe.”

To complete this task, Morrison announced that the Australian Signal Directorate (ASD) a branch of the Australian Defence Forces would receive $118 million to expand its data science and intelligence capabilities so it can remain at the forefront of cybersecurity technology.

A further $62 million will go to create a national situational awareness capability to enable ASD to respond to threats on a national scale, and $20 million will go to establishing “cutting edge” research labs for ASD to understand the threats to new technology.

ASD will also receive a further $470 million to expand its cybersecurity workforce with the creation of 500 new jobs.

Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, pointing out that this “massive investment would have a real impact on the cybersecurity of all Australians.”

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

Private Sector to Get Cyber Aid from Defence

Morrison announced that the ASD through the CESAR package would aim to boost protection and cyber resilience for the private sector.

The ASD will receive over $31 million to disrupt cybercrime offshore and providing assistance to federal, state, and territory law enforcement agencies.

Another estimated $35 million will be used by the ASD to deliver a new cyber threat sharing platform that will allow industry and government to share information and block cyber threats. An approximated $12 million will go towards creating new technology that will enable the ASD and Australia’s major telecommunications providers to block known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed.

Concerns have been raised over how the federal government plans to implement the cybersecurity measures in the private sector, as situational tools like CESAR often involve the implementation of programs or sensors into private and public telecommunication networks that collect data to ensure security.

Director of the RMIT University Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation Professor Matt Warren told The Epoch Times on June 30 that he believes the federal government will face challenges working with the corporate sector because of these concerns.

“The issue the government faces is that they can only directly monitor commonwealth related IT systems. There would be a political backlash if they tried to put sensors indirectly into corporate systems,” said Warren.

Explaining that Australia will probably see more real-time sharing of data between corporate SOCs (Security Operation Centres) and the government, Warren noted: “The issue is the announcement states $35 million towards a new cyber threat sharing platform, but no further information is provided at the moment.”

Noting that the Morrison government had been a great advocate of the corporate sector, Warren said: “I expected a greater exchange of information between the corporate sector and government.”

However, Warren noted that it takes time and resources to develop a country’s cyber capabilities.

“This is just the next step in Australia’s journey. What is important is the release of Australia’s Cyber Security strategy, and this will be the blueprint for Australia’s Cyber journey for the next five years,” said Warren.