Scott Morrison will unveil on Thursday a cyber security package to give greater protection to critical Australian infrastructure and bolster the powers of the Australian Federal Police to pursue criminal networks on the dark web.
The Australian Signals Directorate would be able to go into networks to block operations against critical infrastructure.
The AFP would be given collection powers on the dark web which would enable it to call on the ASD to provide highly specialised technical assistance, using its most sophisticated capabilities.
The government would hope to have legislation for the changes passed before the end of the year, although that timetable will be tight given the limited sitting time.
Amid increasing concern about cyber disruption particularly from China, Morrison said ahead of the announcement: “We will protect our vital infrastructure and services from cyber attacks. We will support businesses to protect themselves”.
And with mounting worry about crime, especially against minors, on the internet he said, “We will track criminals in the darkest corners of the internet to protect our families and children”.
Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton said: “Pedophiles are targeting kids online in chat groups. Criminals are scamming money off our elderly by stealing their internet banking details. Businesses are being locked out of their systems by ransomware attacks.
"And some foreign governments are using the internet to steal health data and have the potential to turn off banking or energy systems.”
The cost of the cyber security package is nearly $1.7 billion but most of the money has been announced before.
The improved infrastructure security includes obligations on the providers of critical infrastructure and government assistance to quickly respond to attacks.
Some $66 million will be provided to help critical infrastructure providers to assess their networks for vulnerabilities and bolster their strength.
There will be more than $67 million to enable greater cyber security collaboration with state governments and industry.
The government will invest more than $88 million to bolster the AFP’s capabilities to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals, and create a fund to co-invest in counter cybercrime capabilities with the states.
At present the federal police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission can only collect communications in an investigation of a particular person or device, connected with a specific offence, under warrant.
On the dark web it is very difficult to identify suspects.
The new power would permit access to the computers used in serious criminal activity, making easier identification of perpetrators and their activities.
This information would then be used as a basis for applying for more targeted investigatory powers, such as interception and computer access warrants.
Among measures to support better cyber security in the community the government will urge greater uptake of safe and secure online behaviour and increase funding for victim support.