FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference held with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will spend A$1.35 billion ($926.1 million) over the next 10 years to boost its cyber security defences, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, as Canberra seeks to combat a wave of attacks.
The announcement comes just weeks after Australia said a “sophisticated state-based actor” has been attacking all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure.
Although Australia has declined to say who it believed was responsible for the attacks, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters the country believed China was responsible, a suggestion swiftly dismissed by Beijing.
“The federal government’s top priority is protecting our nation’s economy, national security and sovereignty. Malicious cyber activity undermines that,” Morrison said in a statement.
The package will include A$470 million to hire an extra 500 security experts in the Australian Signals Directorate, the country’s cyber intelligence agency.
The funding is part of a A$15 billion investment in cyber warfare capabilities, Australia’s Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said, a plan that was accelerated after an electronic attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in 2019.
Australia has never publicly disclosed who was responsible for the hack that came just months before an election, but Reuters reported late last year that the country’s intelligence agencies quietly determined China was responsible for that cyber-attack.
China denies that it was responsible for the attack.
($1 = 1.4577 Australian dollars)