Cyber security has emerged as an election issue, with the coalition vowing to throw $156 million at protecting Australians online and creating hundreds of jobs, if re-elected.

Announcing the plan on Monday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was time to get on the front foot.

“As the risk of cyber attack increases we need to ensure Australians are protected and our defence forces and capabilities continue to get the backing they need,” Morrison said.

“We will continue to take a proactive approach against cyber criminals at home and overseas, including scammers, fraudsters and those involved in child exploitation.”

The funding is to be spread over several key initiatives, including the creation of a Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program ($50 million), a new Countering Foreign Cyber Criminals capability ($40 million) and further support for the Australian Cyber Security Centre ($26 million).

The Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program will look to strengthen Australia’s cyber capabilities through developing a stronger talent pipeline.

This will include scholarships across universities and TAFEs for cyber security studies, the development of cyber specific courses and training programs for primary school teachers.

There will also be $40 million dedicated to the Australian Defence Force to grow its cyber warfare workforce, creating 230 new positions for military cyber specialists over the next four years.

ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse last year revealed that Australia requires 11,000 additional technical cyber security workers over the next decade.

ACS President Yohan Ramasundara welcomed the $156 million investment in cyber security by the Federal Government, particularly the $50m allocated on creating a Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program to create Australia’s future cyber workforce.

"But more significant investment in cyber security and emerging tech should be allocated as business as usual for the government, not an election promise," he said.

"Australia’s has a critical shortage of cyber security professionals and the government should be addressing this as an issue of priority."

The Prime Minister’s announcement around cyber security came as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its Targeting Scams report, which revealed that scams costed Australians $489 million in 2018.

ACCC Deputy Chair added that these losses are most likely “just the tip of the iceberg”, as scams can often go unreported to the government.

The report highlights the growing reliance on technologies for these costly scams, such as the automated phone calls.

It also details the cost of ‘business email compromise’ scams – which involve hacking business email systems and impersonating key personnel – to the tune of more than $60 million in 2018.