DDoS and dingoes: Australia to bolster cyber-defences with 500 hackers amid China spat

AU$1.35bn fund follows revelations that country was hit by state-run attack

Australia will hire 500 hackers as part of a AU$1.35bn (£754m, $925m) boost to protect the nation's networks from a wave of cyber attacks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this morning that the government would funnel the money from existing defence funding over the next decade to bolster the capabilities of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Cybersecurity Centre (ACSC).

The move comes after Morrison revealed last week that the nation's government, businesses and political organisations were under attack from a sophisticated "state-based" hacker.

Although the PM did not drop any names, it is widely believed that Chinese agents were behind the attack.

"The federal government's top priority is protecting our nation's economy, national security and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines that," Morrison said in a statement.

"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."

The new spend will enable the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response unit, or CESAR, to identify more cyber threats, disrupt more foreign cyber criminals, and build more partnerships between industry and government.

Headlining the package is AU$470m to create 500 new jobs within the ASD, an 1,800-strong agency responsible for thwarting cyber attacks. A further AU$278m will go towards helping the agency to tackle offshore cybercrime; expand its intelligence capabilities; and develop a national situational awareness system to respond to threats on a national scale.

Details on the remaining AU$500m are expected with the government's forthcoming 2020 Cybersecurity Strategy. The strategy comes as part of a review of the Australian Defence Force structure, which authorities commissioned after tensions between China and the US escalated last year. ®

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