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Australia Unveils $220 Million Strategy to Boost Cyber Defenses

  • Phil Mercer

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers a speech in Tokyo, Japan. Turnbull, a former online entrepreneur, said hacking costs his country around $780 million per year.

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers a speech in Tokyo, Japan. Turnbull, a former online entrepreneur, said hacking costs his country around $780 million per year.

Australia says it is building up its capability to thwart cyber crime. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull recently unveiled his $220 million Cyber Security Strategy, aimed at boosting the nation's defenses against online assaults by hackers on individuals, businesses and governments.

Turnbull said defenses need to be boosted against foreign hackers because of what he called the unprecedented “scale and reach of malicious cyber activity.”

To help in this effort, the prime minister is seeking closer collaboration between the government and businesses, and appointing a special ambassador to coordinate efforts with foreign governments. Australia has also admitted that it has the capacity to respond to threats by launching cyber attacks of its own. Although Turnbull did not elaborate on what techniques or technology could be used if the government launched such cyber attacks, he said the use of “offensive cyber capability” was subject to stringent legal oversight.

Dr. Tobias Feakin, a government adviser and head of the International Cyber Policy Center at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says online threats are becoming more serious.

“If you're a big business, you're probably having to deal with thousands of instances each week. Prime Minister Turnbull is clearly focused on this issue. It's an issue that, you know, he's incredibly interested in. He's one of the most technically astute leaders that this country's ever had, if not, to be honest, globally. So he's engaged on this topic,” said Feakin.

Last year China was suspected of infiltrating Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. The bureau has a direct link to the Defense Department and it is thought the intrusion was an attempt to steal information. Beijing denied any involvement.

Now for the first time, the government in Canberra has confirmed that the security breach did take place, although there has been no official declaration of who was responsible.

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