Australia will respond to any cyberattacks against its critical infrastructure “in kind”, Defence Minister Peter Dutton says.

Mr Dutton says officials are monitoring malicious cyber activity on a daily basis with Australia likely to become a target for Russian actors following it offering aid and support to Ukraine.

Despite no specific cyberattacks being identified almost a month after Russia’s invasion, Mr Dutton says there are concerns Australia would become collateral damage in attacks against foreign countries or institutions.

“Where there’s malware that goes out or attacks that might be out on a Microsoft system, for example, that will impact on businesses and the Australian government and Australian households as well,” he said.

“But we would anticipate those threats and we’re monitoring it very closely.”

Australia continues to work with its partners, namely the United Kingdom and the United States, to share intelligence and information and to counter any Russian attacks against Australian industries or organisations.

Mr Dutton’s remarks came as he officially opened a new cyber centre in Canberra.

The new Australian Signals Directorate facility in the year marking the intelligence agency’s 75th anniversary will bring together experts, federal police, the defence force and various department officials to enhance cyber defence and intelligence.

Hijacked Ukrainian government websites were also used to spread disinformation, Mr Dutton said as he raised concerns about foreign interference.

Russia, North Korea, Iran and China have been publicly named by Australia since 2017 as having launched malicious cyber activities.

“The conflict in Ukraine is testimony to how cyber is changing the nature of warfare and countries need to prepare for this change,” he said.

“The ramifications of a cyberattack can be considerable. Disruption or shutdown of vital services. Loss of revenue or the collapse of businesses. Injury or loss of life.”

Mr Dutton said Australia will continue to publicly attribute and expose attacks alongside allies and partners as a form of deterrence.


Dominic Giannini
(Australian Associated Press)