Morrison pledges AU$156m to build cyber workforce and fight cybercrime if re-elected

The multi-million dollar investment will be used to thwart 'organised cybercrime gangs', build a cyber workforce, and help small businesses stay protected.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to protect older Australians, businesses, and national security assets from the risk of cyber-attacks if his government is voted back in next month.

Mentioned during the 2019-20 Budget that was delivered earlier this month, the pledge of AU$156 million will be used to thwart cybercrime and beef up Australia's cyber talent.

The "cyber resilience and workforce package" will include AU$50 million for the creation of a Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program that Morrison expects will create the cyber workforce the country needs.

The Cyber Security National Workforce Growth Program will see the Departments of Defence and Home Affairs work alongside industry and academia, under the guidance of National Cyber Security Adviser Alastair MacGibbon, to create the program.

Morrison expects the cyber workforce in Australia to grow through the establishment of scholarships for postgraduate, undergraduate, and TAFE studies directly associated with cybersecurity, reserving 50% of the scholarships for women.

AU$40 million has also been set aside to establish a Countering Foreign Cyber Criminals capability within the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which will receive assistance from the Australian Federal Police, in a bid to combat organised "cybercrime gangs".

The AU$40 million injection will also assist the ADF and Department of Defence to grow its cyber warfare workforce, with 230 additional positions for military cyber operations specialists in the ADF to be created over the next four years.

100 new gap year positions will also be created each year, focused on cyber and information warfare.

In addition, the ACSC will get AU$26 million to expand its assistance to the community in what Morrison called its "fight against malicious cyber criminals and actors".

"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 in a statement on Monday.

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

See also: AU$3.4m to be spent on getting Australian women to take up STEM

Similarly, investment is also being put into: Cybersecurity challenges and educational activities at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education; the development of specialist cybersecurity related courses, which directly meet the needs of Defence, government, and industry; work placements for students; and Questacon's Engineering is Elementary pilot program to educate teachers about increasing student interest in engineering and other STEM fields in a national rollout of the program, which Morrison said will train 1,000 primary school teachers from around the country.

The AU$26 million allocated to thwart cyber crime will see the development of an online cybersecurity training program that Morrison said will provide practical cyber advice for small businesses, older Australians, and Australian families.

The funding will also be used to expand the ACSC's 24/7 cyber hotline to include a dedicated help desk for those flagged as particularly at risk, with specially trained staff to provide "tailored technical cybersecurity advice" to prevent and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

The election pledge follows the recent online attack that hit the nation's political parties, forcing a password reset of all Australian Parliament House network users, including politicians and all of their staffers, in February.

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