Head of Military's Cyber Unit Raises Grave Concerns about Rising Threat to Critical Infrastruct

A senior military figure has warned the public that the threat of cyber attacks on the military, and Australia’s sovereignty as a whole are on the rise.

Major General Marcus Thompson, head of the ‘Information Warfare Division’ that was created in 2017 has both defensive, and offensive capabilities. He spoke to the ABC, detailing the rise in “threats both from a criminal perspective as well as from state-sponsored [groups].”

According to the ABC, the “primary responsibility of the Information Warfare Division is to defend the military’s own systems, but Major general Thompson said he held concerns about the threat to civilian infrastructure… that includes Australia’s ability to respond if a major cyber attack were to be launched on critical systems such as banks, telecommunication or utility companies.”

Thompson reiterated that these threats are not far-fetched hypotheticals, they pose severe risks to every nation, adding that it’s caused him to lose sleep. We reported yesterday that PM Scott Morrison confirmed that Parliamentary servers were hit by a cuber attack, originating from a “sophisticated state actor”, highlighting the escalating threat that cyberattacks are posing to even the most secure servers.

“I have a concern, and I know this concern is shared by many of my colleagues and mates throughout the national security community, that in the event of a significant incident on Australia in cyber space, the resources that would be required to respond might not exist at the scale that might be required.”

He added that he expects the number of ‘offensive attacks’ from around the globe to increase.

The General put forward his reasoning as to why more people are entering the cybercrime realm, stating that “the cost of entry into this area is incredibly low relative to other military capabilities, [and] there is a greater opportunity for the various uses of cyber space as a society becomes more dependent on information and our electronic devices.”

Thompson described the fact that infrastructure and equipment utilised by the military and defence forces is moving away from analogue ‘hydraulics’ as he puts it, moving to ‘fly by wire, sail by wire, drive by wire’, which can ultimately be compromised by a specialist’s cyberattack.

“Our focus is on the development of defensive cyber capabilities… the defence of our networks and mission systems is not only the most pressing priority, it’s also the harder challenge.” He said.

“So, procedures around the hygiene of that device, both passive and active defence of those platforms and missions systems as well as our computer networks, that’s where we are focussing our attention right now.”

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