Prime Minister Scott Morrison has raised the alarm on the escalating wave of cyber attacks against all levels of industry and government in meetings with Britain’s top spies in London, as the number of ransomware attacks in Australia appear to have doubled in recent months.
After wrapping up the G7 leaders summit, Mr Morrison was due to meet with British intelligence officials on Monday London time, where cyber security and protection of critical infrastructure were expected to be major talking points.
He will then have a one-on-one meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday where the two leaders hope to be able to announce the finalisation of a free-trade deal between the countries.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan has been locked in negotiations with his counterpart Liz Truss every night in the lead-up to the meeting, but officials from the Australian side conceded they may not reach a consensus before the two prime ministers hold a press conference at Downing Street on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison will then fly to Paris where he will raise with French President Emmanuel Macron the cost blowouts, schedule slippages and disagreements with the French company responsible for Australia’s $90 billion submarine project.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed on Monday that Australian frigates will within weeks join a British carrier strike group in naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific, including port visits and manoeuvres through the South China Sea, which is expected to upset China.
New figures show there has been a 200 per cent increase in reports of ransomware attacks to Australia’s premier cyber security agency in recent months. A ransomware is a form of malware which encrypts the victim’s files whereby the attacker then demands a ransom to restore access to their system.
Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie, who will on Tuesday launch the government’s new cyber awareness campaign, said small and medium-sized businesses needed to boost their defences and become more aware of the support available from the Australian Cyber Security Centre.