A new cyber-espionage watchdog has been created within the the nation's chief spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), to be officially announced by the Attorney-General tonight.
The intelligence unit has been set up to monitor espionage attempts against Australian national security interests, and will release alerts to agencies and critical infrastructure owners in a manner similar to the tacit role of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia.
"ASIO's close cooperation with CERT Australia and the [Defence Department's Cyber Security Operations Centre] seeks to identify developing threats and determine appropriate responses," Attorney-General Robert McClelland will say in a speech to be delivered tonight.
"For this reason, ASIO has also established a specialist cyber investigations unit to investigate and provide advice on state-sponsored cyber attacks against, or involving, Australian interests."
However, while the unit will monitor for espionage targeting the private sector, it will not help businesses under cyber attack, according to the Attorney General's Department. This is in line with comments from the Attorney-General's Department first assistant secretary for the National Security Resilience Policy Division Mike Rothery that the Federal Government will not assist businesses affected by hacking or denial-of-service attacks.
The unit, reported by Fairfax, to have been created some nine months ago, is the latest in a series of federal government initiatives to combat the purported threat of online attacks against national interests.
The government conducts regular online war games with allies under Cyber Storm, and shares online defence and critical information across agencies within the Department of Defence and the Federal Attorney-General's Department.