The Federal Government has been tasked with filling 800 more cybersecurity roles, following the announcement of a new cyber division within the Australian Defence Forces (ADF).

Speaking at a live-telecast press conference last Friday morning, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan, outlined Australia’s strengthened cyber capabilities.

“As of tomorrow, there will be an information warfare division within Defence,” he said.

The division will begin with 100 staff, with a further 800 to be recruited over the next 10 years, he said.

The government has directed the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to use its offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt, degrade, deny and deter offshore cyber criminals, according to a statement from the office of the Prime Minister.

This gives Defence powers to take down the enemy before “any offensive attacks can take place,” said Tehan, adding that ministerial authorisation would be required before doing so.

Tehan said that while Australia had “outstanding cyber capabilities” these improvements were about “keeping level with other countries.”

The changes, flagged in the 2016 Defence White Paper, will see cyber personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force work together to protect Australia. “The Government will strengthen the Defence cyber workforce and systems to deter and defend against the threat of cyber attack,” stated the paper.

“The cyber threat to Australia is growing. Cyber attacks are a real and present threat to the ADF’s warfighting ability as well as to other government agencies and other sectors of Australia’s economy and critical infrastructure.”

It is an indication that future battles will be fought over the internet rather than a battlefield, a change ACS President Anthony Wong flagged in The Australian last July.

“The battles of the future will involve more cyber warfare than boots on the ground or submarines in the water,” Wong wrote. “In formulating Australia’s future defence capabilities, our government will need more savvy ICT professionals working with defence personnel and bureaucrats to achieve the best outcomes for the country.”

Professor Jill Slay, Director of the Australian Cyber Security Centre in Canberra, and Chair of the ACS Cyber Security Committee, said the move was about pulling together Australia’s cyber capacities as a joint function.

“We have to grow our cyber capacity, as do the Americans and our other allies. We have been slightly slow in doing this."

Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, said the government’s $400 million investment was money well spent.

“It is inconvenient and frustrating and expensive but it’s a lot more inconvenient and frustrating and expensive to be a victim of cyberwarfare. It's better to spend the money earlier rather than later,” he said.