Cyber deterrent: PM talks up Australia’s offensive capabilities

Nation has an ‘offensive cyber capability’ housed in the Australian Signals Directorate, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has acknowledged that Australia possesses an “offensive cyber capability” that can be drawn upon when responding to attacks on the nation’s networks.

“While cyber security measures sit at the forefront of our response to cyber threats, defensive measures may not always be adequate to respond to serious cyber incidents against Australian networks,” the PM said today while launching the government’s cyber security strategy.

“The government can draw on a range of options to respond, such as law enforcement, diplomatic, or economic measures,” Turnbull said.

“An offensive cyber capability housed in the Australian Signals Directorate provides another option for government to respond,” he added.

“The use of such a capability is subject to stringent legal oversight and is consistent with our support for the international rules-based order and our obligations under international law.

“Acknowledging this offensive capability adds a level of deterrence. It adds to our credibility, as we promote norms of good behaviour on the international stage; and, importantly, familiarity with offensive measures enhances our defensive capabilities as well.”

Turnbull this morning also acknowledged that hackers had penetrated the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Parliamentary Services.

“Australia’s defensive and offensive cyber capabilities enable us to deter and respond to the threat of cyber attack,” the cyber security strategy states.

“Any measure used by Australia in deterring and responding to malicious cyber activities would be consistent with our support for the international rules-based order and our obligations under international law.”

The cyber security strategy includes $233.1 million over four years for a range of initiatives, including $11 million for the Australian Signals Directorate to increase its ability to identify vulnerabilities in government systems and $1.3 million for the ASD to carry out a rolling program of security assessments for government agencies.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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