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CybersecurityU.S. - Australia announce cyber defense treaty

Published 19 September 2011

Last week, the United States and Australia announced a mutual defense treaty that declared a cyberattack on one would result in retaliation by both nations; this new agreement appears to be the first instance of a mutual defense treaty in the cyber realm outside of NATO

Last week, the United States and Australia announced a mutual defense treaty that declared a cyberattack on one would result in retaliation by both nations.

The latest announcement comes as an addition to the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security treaty (ANZUS), which commits the three nations to support one another if one is attacked. The treaty, signed sixty years ago, now includes cyber attacks as well as physical attacks. Beginning in 1985, New Zealand has not been an active partner of ANZUS.

This new agreement appears to be the first instance of a mutual defense treaty in the cyber realm outside of NATO.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the treaty highlights how the United States perceives cyber threats.

I think it’s in large measure a recognition of what I’ve been saying time and time again, which is that cyber is the battlefield of the future,” Panetta said. “We’re all going to have to work very hard not only to defend against cyber attacks but to be aggressive with regards to cyber attacks as well. And the best way to accomplish that is not only on our own but by working with our partners.”

Earlier this year, the Obama administration released its cyberescurity strategy that similarly announced that certain cyber attacks would result in retaliation that could potentially involve a physical response.

So far, the majority of cyber attacks have been focused on stealing sensitive data. In July, the Pentagon revealed that a foreign intelligence service stole 24,000 files from a U.S. defense contractor earlier this year.