Government prepares to boost offensive cyber capability

Want to be a hacker? The government is hiring

The Australian Signals Directorate has commenced a recruitment campaign that will help boost the government’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

The ASD, which has the dual mandate of signals intelligence and information security guidance for government agencies, is seeking to increase its headcount. The agency is currently recruiting offensive cyber operators, penetration testers, software developers, vulnerability researchers, and network and system admins. The organisation is also recruiting for a range of non-cyber-related ICT roles and non-technical roles.

“The positions include specialists to help develop Australia’s offensive cyber capability to deny, degrade or disrupt adversaries if they try to attack Australian computers or networks,” a Department of Defence spokesperson told Computerworld Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the launch of the government’s cyber security strategy earlier this year acknowledged that Australia possesses an “offensive cyber capability”.

“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.

“The government can draw on a range of options to respond, such as law enforcement, diplomatic, or economic measures,” Turnbull said during the strategy’s launch. “An offensive cyber capability housed in the Australian Signals Directorate provides another option for government to respond.”

“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 ASD occupies a central role in the cyber security strategy, including as the lead agency for the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which in addition to Defence draws on cyber capabilities from across the Attorney-General’s Department, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.

The new positions the ASD is recruiting for build on the priorities in the 2016 Defence White Paper, which earmarked a $300m boost for Defence’s cyber capabilities

“This investment will deter and defend against the threat of cyber attack,” the Defence spokesperson said. “The 2016 Defence White Paper allows for enhancements in Defence’s intelligence, space and cyber security capabilities.”

This will involve recruiting for some 900 additional Australian Defence Force positions and around 800 Australian public service positions, which will be offset by ongoing reductions elsewhere in the APS workforce over the decade to FY2025-26, the spokesperson told Computerworld. “A significant number of these will be working in cyber roles.”

“ASD needs flexible, creative thinkers who can think outside the normal bounds of cyber security to understand current threats and techniques and anticipate future security challenges,” the spokesperson added.

“Recruits will be able to do things that most people cannot. They will grapple with complex and unusual problems and will be counted on to find innovative and clever solutions.

“ASD requires a rare mix of staff with specialist skills, adaptability and imagination. These abilities are needed to outthink and out-imagine some of the most testing adversaries and problems imaginable.”

In addition to the White Paper boost to Defence’s cyber capabilities, the national cyber security strategy outlined new ASD initiatives to shore up the information security of government agencies, including $1.3 million for a rolling program that will assess the security of agencies and $11 million to boost the ability to uncover vulnerabilities in government systems.

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Tags cyber warcyber warfaresecurityAustralian Signals Directorate (ASD)cyber security

More about ASIOAttorney-GeneralAustralian Crime CommissionAustralian Defence ForceAustralian Federal PoliceDepartment of DefenceFederal Police

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