The Australian federal government will invest $1.35 billion into cyber security over the next ten years as part of a new program that promises to create 500 jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has this morning announced the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package, as Australia continues to face growing cyber threats.

“The Federal Government’s top priority is protecting our nation’s economy, national security and sovereignty,” Morrison said.

“Malicious cyber activity undermines that.

“My Government’s record investment in our nation’s cyber security will help ensure we have the tools and capabilities we need to fight back and keep Australians safe.”

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Australian government revealed it was being targeted by a “state-based cyber actor”, believed to be China.

It also follows a review from the Department of Defence which questioned Australia’s ability to fend off aggressive cyber attacks.

The CESAR package will see $31 million put towards helping the Australian Signal Directorate (ASD) fight offshore cybercrime, $35 million towards a new cyber threat-sharing platform and $12 million go to enabling the ASD and Australian telcos to block known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed.

Additionally, over $118 million is to be invested into expanding data science and intelligence capabilities, and more than $62 million will help the ASD prepare for cyber threats on a national scale.

500 jobs

The biggest investment, however, will be $470 million put towards creating over 500 new cybersecurity jobs within ASD.

This comes as Australia deals with a chronic skills shortage in cyber security.

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

And Research from Hays last year showed demand for cyber workers is “far outpacing the number of qualified candidates”.

“While funding is important, the human resource consideration is essential,” said RMIT University Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation Director Matthew Warren.

“Appropriate steps should be taken by government to address the current and future skills shortages and promote students to study courses in all aspects of cyber security.

The government has attempted to ease this skills shortage in recent times, last year announcing a $156 million boost for cyber skills on the eve of the Federal Election.

More than $500 million of the CESAR package still remains unaccounted for.

The Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds said the investment is part of a wider Defence scheme.

“This package is one part of our $15 billion investment in cyber and information warfare capabilities that will form part of Defence’s 2020 Force Structure Plan to address the rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape,” Reynolds said.

Australia’s new cyber strategy is expected to be announced later this year.

It will follow the government’s previous 2016 Cyber Security Strategy, which saw the Turnbull government invest a total of $230 million into strengthening Australia’s cyber capabilities over four years.

Time for a strategy

There has been mounting pressure on the government to release the latest cyber security strategy, which the opposition says is already months overdue.

“Despite growing threats, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has left cybersecurity at the bottom of his in-tray,” said Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cybersecurity Tim Watts earlier this month.

“It's been 10 months since the Morrison government began consultations on the new Cyber Security Strategy.

“Given how quickly things change in cyber security, a virtual millennia in hacker years has passed without action.”