Australia sets up cyberwarfare unit to target foreign enemies

Friday, June 30th, 2017
Last Update: 14:57

Australia has announced it is launching a new military cyberwarfare unit for offensive and defensive operations. A minister cited "the changing character of contemporary conflict."

Australia said on Friday that it was launching an "information warfare division," as well as expanding the scope of its cyberintelligence agency to go on the counterattack against foreign hackers in response to a growing wave of global assaults.

The minister responsible for cybersecurity, Dan Tehan, told reporters in the eastern city of Melbourne that the new military unit would both launch its own attacks on foreign enemies such as the so-called "Islamic State" (IS), and help protect the armed forces from cyberattacks from outside.

"This is a result of the changing character of contemporary conflict," Tehan said. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last year that cyberattacks carried out by Australia had already made "valuable contributions" in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq. Australia is participating there in a US-led coalition battling the group. The new unit is to start work on Saturday with some 100 personnel.

Fighting cybercrime

The country΄s cyberintelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, will also see its tasks expanded to include targeting offshore criminals.

The move comes following two major global cyberattacks: the Wannacry attack in May and a second attack this week, originating in Ukraine, that wrought havoc on companies across the world.

 Although Australia largely escaped damage from the ransomware attacks, Tehan said their global scope showed the necessity of going on the offensive against foreign hackers.

"We have to make sure that we are keeping the mums and dads, small businesses, large businesses, government departments and agencies secure in this nation," Tehan said. Turnbull also spoke in a statement of the need to become proactive. "Our response to criminal cyberthreats should not just be defensive. We must take the fight to the criminals," he said.

tj/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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