The federal government will repurpose $1.35 billion of Defence budget toward enhancing the nation’s cybersecurity capabilities over the next decade through the Australian Signals Directorate and Australian Cyber Security Centre.
Known as the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package, the spending is the largest ever commitment to cyber security and comes in advance of the completion of Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy.
In a joint release on Tuesday morning by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, the government said the new funding would mean the agencies could identify more cyber threats, disrupt more foreign cybercriminals, build more partnerships with industry and government.
Mr Morrison has ratcheted up the government’s public discussion of cyber threats in recent weeks, including highlighting ongoing and sustained threats from an unnamed state-based actor widely understood to be China.
“Malicious cyber activity against Australia is increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication, the Prime Minister said.
“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,” the Prime Minister said.
The package includes a $470 million investment to expand Australia’s cyber security workforce, with the creation of over 500 new jobs within ASD. So pressing is the need that the ministers took the unusual step of publishing an immediate call to action in a media release.
“Australians who want an exciting career at ASD should go to asd.gov.au/careers,” it said.
The CESAR package includes new capabilities to disrupt and defeat malicious cyber activity, boosting the national capacity to take the fight to cybercriminals offshore and to neutralise and block emerging cyber threats to Australia through offensive measures.
This includes more than $31 million to enhance ASD’s ability to disrupt cybercrime offshore, taking the fight to foreign criminals that seek to target Australians, and providing assistance to federal, state and territory law enforcement agencies.
More than $35 million has been earmarked for a new cyber threat-sharing platform, enabling industry and government to share intelligence about cyber activity, and block emerging threats in near real-time.
The packages puts $12 million towards “new strategic mitigations and active disruption options”, enabling ASD and Australia’s telecommunication networks block known malicious websites and halt the spread of computer viruses at speed.
The government will spend $118 million to allow ASD to expand its data science and intelligence capabilities, ensuring Australia remains at the forefront of the technological advancements in cyber security, and $62 million to deliver a national situational awareness
More than $20 million will be spent establishing research laboratories to better understand threats to emerging technology.
The remaining details of the CESAR package are to be detailed in the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. The paper will be the first major re-write of the Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy since the original strategy was released in 2016.
The 2020 Cyber Security Strategy was to have been delivered prior to the May budget, but had been delayed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Defence Minister Senator Reynolds said “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.”
“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.”