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Australia invests $1 billion in cyber defence systems in tense warning to China

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the news in a statement yesterday, though he did not accuse any particular country of being behind the attacks.

As part of the plans, Australia will recruit at least 500 ‘cyberspies’ to build up its defences, the New York Times reports.

Morrison has warned recently of a surge in online attacks in terms of their frequency and severity.

They coincide with increasing tensions between Australia and China after the former voiced support for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in April this year.

Following that, China announced it would slap tariffs of over 80 percent on Australian barley imports to the country.

And in the second week of June, Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham claimed that Australia’s requests for dialogue over the trade problems were going unanswered.

However, David Littleproud, Australia’s agriculture minister, was quick to deny speculation that two occurrences were linked, pointing out that issues surrounding Australian barley exports to China had been ongoing for well over a year prior.

Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism warned around the start of June that Chinese residents should not travel to Australia due to “a significant increase” in racist attacks on Chinese nationals.

While Australian shadow defence minister Richard Marles acknowledged that China was “clearly not free from the issue of racism”, the country’s deputy prime minister Michael McCormack denied China’s allegations.

This is the background over which Australia’s new online defence investments have fallen.

READ: Australia accuses China of not responding to requests to discuss trade tensions

And he added: “There are not a large number of state-based actors that can engage in this type of activity”.

In yesterday’s announcement, Morrison described the cyber security funds as a “record investment” and added it would “help ensure we have the tools and capabilities we need to fight back and keep Australians safe”, according to E&T.

Australia is not the only country that has faced state-backed espionage in recent weeks.

In an interview with Fox News reporter Bret Baier on Wednesday last week, the US’ FBI director Christopher Wray made far-reaching accusations against China.

He said that the nation had conducted large-scale espionage against the US that went beyond – but also included – cyber attacks.

He claimed that the Chinese Communist Party was “pursuing a campaign of intellectual property theft, economic espionage, cyber-intrusions, that target businesses big and small all across the country, and our academic research institutions.”

He added: “This is not about the Chinese people or Chinese Americans. This is about the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.”



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