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Australia Launches New Cyber Warfare Unit

FILE - A man types on a computer keyboard in front of the displayed cyber code in this illustration picture taken on March 1, 2017.

Australia has a new Information Warfare Unit that will start operations within days. It will defend Australian military targets from cyber attacks and will be able to launch its own assaults on foreign defense forces.

Australia’s newest frontline forces are ‘keyboard warriors’ - analysts, technicians and computer experts who will lead the fight against cyber attacks.

The unit will run both defensive and offensive operations. It will allow Australia to respond to modern digital forms of conflict, as the United States, China and Russia increase their investment in electronic warfare.

The Information Warfare Unit will have 100 staff members, but that figure is expected to grow to about 900 in a decade’s time.

John Blaxland, a professor in International Security and Intelligence Studies, says it will have the ability to counter foreign powers, or criminal gangs.

“There is a lot you can do that can hassle, harass, interdict, subvert, undermine and damage, and that is a space Australia has not sought to buy in on," he said. "It is buying in on it big time now.”

Professor Greg Austin is a professor in the Australian Center for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales. He says Australia needs to increase its investment in electronic warfare.

“We are definitely well behind the United States, but the good news is that Russia and China, potential adversaries of Australia, only really joined this cyber arms race in the relatively recent past," Austin said. "We are really lucky that they were also behind the play.”

Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that cyber attacks were the “new frontier of warfare” and “the new frontier of espionage.”

Analysts say the formation of the cyber warfare unit is one of the biggest strategic shifts in Australian military planning for many years.