Australia needs 'cyber weapons', report argues

Defence should counter threats across all domains, including cyber space, says Professor Alan Dupont

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) needs to develop a full-spectrum defence strategy which includes cyber weapons according to a new report by Professor Alan Dupont.

<i>Full Spectrum Defence: Re-thinking the fundamentals of Australian defence strategy</i>, published by the Lowy Institute, notes that the ADF has a maritime, land and aerial approach to defence.

“A particular weakness of our military strategy is its failure to reflect the crucial role that space and cyber space play in modern military operations,” writes Dupont in the report.

Space-based systems, such as intelligence, communications and global positioning satellites, are the “new jewels in the ADF’s crown.”

This is because the technology can be used for command and control, identifying, locating and destroying targets and providing early warning of ballistic missile attacks, states the report.

For example, the Wideband Global SATCOM system provides secure communications for troops. It will also allow Australia’s air warfare destroyers and ships to be networked with unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, said Dupont.

In addition, he said that the increased use of the Internet and probability that future wars will be fought in cyber space has heightened the need to protect Australia’s cyber capabilities from hostile attack. He suggested that Australia should develop its own cyber weapons.

Dupont pointed out that state and non-state actors are performing cyber attacks on critical defence systems every day.

“In the multi-dimensional, interconnected conflict zones of the 21st century it makes no sense to build a military strategy around a particular domain or assume that future adversaries will follow a predictable route or plan,” said Dupont.

According to Dupont, the importance of cyber space and outer space defence systems were not factored into Australia’s past defence white papers.

“There has been no real attempt to draw out the defence implications of a future world in which attacks may come from any domain and direction, or where the source of the attack is difficult to establish with a high degree of precision,” he said.

The 2015 Defence White Paper will provide an opportunity for the Abbott government to carry out a “much-needed reset” of Australia’s defence and military strategies, he added.

The 2013 Defence White Paper said that the potential impact of malicious cyber activity has grown with Defence’s increasing reliance on networked operations.

“In a future conflict or escalation to conflict, an adversary could use a cyber attack against Australia to deter, delay or prevent Australia’s response or the Australian Defence Force’s deployment of forces,” states the report.

“This would probably include the targeting of information systems, networks and broader support infrastructure perceived to be integral to the ADF’s decision making and war fighting capabilities. Once deployed, our forces need to operate as a networked force in a contested environment.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Tags cyber warfareAustralian Defence Force (ADF)cyber weapons

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