Australia to embed intelligence officers within some private companies - cyber chief

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will embed intelligence officers in some private companies, the head of the country’s chief cyber intelligence agency said on Tuesday, as Canberra seeks to strengthen its defences after a spate of attacks on critical infrastructure.

Citing estimates that cyber attacks on businesses and households are costing about A$29 billion (16.03 billion pounds) or 1.5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, Australia said last month it would spend A$1.66 billion over the next 10 years to strengthen companies’ cyber defences.

“We already started to partner with a number of companies and actually agreeing to embed each other’s staff, so that we better understand what we have in terms of a threat picture,” Rachel Noble, head of the head of Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) - the country’s cyber intelligence agency - said in a rare public speech in Canberra.

Noble did not name the companies, but described them as “crucial private sector companies”.

Australia's drive to strengthen cyber defences comes amid a spate of cyber attacks this year, whose targets have included Bluescope Steel BSL.AX and Bega Cheese BGA.AX.

The corporate attacks follow Australia’s most high-profile cyber-attack, a 2019 hack of Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties.

Reuters reported late last year that Australia determined China was responsible for the attack, though Beijing denies it.

Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Gerry Doyle