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Australian gov't announces new offensive cyber warfare division

Updated: 06 30 , 2017 15:52
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CANBERRA, June 30 -- The Australian government has announced that a new cyber warfare division with offensive capabilities will go online from July 1 to ensure the country remains at the "cutting edge" of the cyber security landscape.

Making the announcement in Canberra on Friday, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said the new Information Warfare Division would conduct both offensive and defensive cyber attacks, in a move he said was necessary due to the changing nature of modern warfare.

"From tomorrow, Australia will have an Information Warfare Division within the Defence Department," Tehan told the press.

"This is a result of the changing character of contemporary conflict. The division will have the responsibility for military cyber operations, military intelligence, joint electronic warfare, information operations and our military's space operations.

"It will integrate existing operations across our forces to protect and support our Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and systems, and the division is authorized to conduct self-defence, passive defence, active defence and offensive operations."

The minister said Australia's defence personnel were among the best in the world, and that under the new cyber warfare division, they would be able to stay "ahead of the curve" to keep Australians, businesses and governments safe from cyber attacks.

"This is about ensuring we keep level with other countries. This isn't about catching up, it's about ensuring we're at the cutting edge. The only risk we run is if we don't give our intelligence agencies the capability," said the minister.

Earlier, in a statement provided to News Corp, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the move to arm the new division with offensive capabilities, saying that Australia's "response to criminal cyber threats should not just be defensive."

"We must take the fight to the criminals," Turnbull said, "The use of offensive cyber capabilities will add to the government's crime-fighting arsenal and form part of our broader strategy to prevent and shut down safe havens for offshore cyber criminals."

In response to the new division, intelligence expert Professor John Blaxland from the Australian National University (ANU) said it was an important step for the government to take considering the changing landscape of warfare and cyber espionage.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader Bill Shorten applauded the move by the government, telling the press that cyber warfare is the "new front line."

"I think cyber warfare is the new front line for cyber security," Shorten told the press on Friday morning. "I think the Australia Signals Directorate (ASD) is outstanding -- the center for cyber warfare is world class. But we need to give them the resources to work with industry, especially for softer targets (such as small businesses and hospitals)."

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