The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), in partnership with ACS, has today released a policy brief, Australia's Offensive Cyber Capabilities.

The brief aims to clarify the discussion around Australia's offensive capabilities and provide recommendations to Government going forward.

According to Fergus Hanson, lead author of the brief and Head of the International Cyber Policy Centre, the Prime Minister's announcement in April 2016 of Australia having offensive cyber capabilities led to speculation over where and when Australia's capabilities would be deployed, and some confusion in public debate of the nature of these capabilities.

Hanson also noted that offensive military operations and law enforcement operations -- for example against cyber criminals threatening Australia's economic interests -- were being conflated in the debate.

"Australia is unusual in being so transparent about discussing it has this capability and some of the use-cases for it, but the problem is that there's not a lot of information about it, which has led to a lot of speculation and confusion," said Hanson.

"Having more clarity about what it is and what it isn't will hopefully lead to a much more constructive debate and discussion in Australia."

The brief also provides six recommendations going forward.

These include clarity in reporting and the delineation between military and law enforcement operations; the training, recruitment and retention of skilled cyber personnel, including the raising of salaries and the formation of an alumni pool of reservists; stronger engagement with the private sector; easier information exchange through lowering classification of information; investment in asymmetric capability against future adversaries; and updating policy and legislative frameworks to keep pace with the times.

Speaking on the release of the brief, ACS President Yohan Ramasundara said the reality of the world we live in today is one in which cyber operations are now the norm.

“The modern battlefield now encompasses cyber space – where soldiers are equipped not just with weapons, but with keyboards.

“ACS’ aim with this policy brief is to improve clarity of communication around cyber in support of Australia’s cyber capabilities. Continued investment is also pivotal to keep ahead and defend against the latest threats, as is ensuring that we have the skills and talent to drive cyber capabilities into the future.

“This means attracting and keeping the brightest young minds and experienced technology veterans to support and grow a pipeline of cyber specialists for Australia,” he said.

To read the brief, click here.