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(Reuters) — Australia will spend A$1.66 billion ($1.19 billion) over the next 10 years to strengthen the cyber defenses of companies and households after a rise in cyberattacks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
Cyberattacks on businesses and households are costing about A$29 billion or 1.5% of Australia's gross domestic product, Mr. Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Just weeks ago, Canberra said it would spend A$1.35 billion over the next decade to bolster the capabilities of its chief cyber intelligence agency.
Mr. Morrison said in June that a “sophisticated state-based actor” had spent months trying to hack all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure.
Much of Australia’s cyber policy to date has focused on bolstering the defenses of government agencies after an attack on the parliament in 2019, but malicious cyber activity is increasing against small and medium businesses, universities and households, Mr. Morrison said.
The increased spending is intended to fortify critical infrastructure, boost police efforts to disrupt criminal activity on the dark web and strengthen community awareness.
“We will protect our vital infrastructure and services from cyberattacks. We will support businesses to protect themselves so they can succeed in the digital economy,” said Mr. Morrison.
Australia will also embark on a more aggressive approach to disrupting would-be attackers.
The Australian Signals Directorate - which, Reuters revealed last year, determined China was responsible for hacking Australia's parliament - will be given new funding to counter foreign cyberattacks.
China denies it was responsible for the attack, which came months before a national election.
Research by price comparison website Compare the Market found that cyber attacks cost the Australian economy more than $1 billion Australia ($672 million) per year, IT Brief reports. Small businesses account for 43% of all cybercrime targets, medium-sized organizations made up 53% and large firms 48%.