Deployed for the first time on operations in the Middle East is an element of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Cyber Unit. Two personnel and specialised equipment are currently embedded with HMAS Toowoomba, providing mission-critical cryptologic and cyber space support to sailors.
Fleet Cyber Unit detachment lead, Lieutenant David Hayes, described the defensive operators as a "roving guard force" that searches the ship's network for unusual trends and malicious activity.
“The team’s goal is also to normalise Cryptologic Network category integration into the full spectrum of cyber space operations within maritime campaigns," he said.
The aim of Navy’s cyber operations is to fight and win in the information and communications domain by effectively integrating cyber space effects in support of the mission and at-sea deployments.
“FCU will contribute by developing priorities to defend Navy’s mission-critical systems from adversary collection, manipulation and denial,” LEUT Hayes said.
“In today’s operational environment, state and non-state actors regularly attempt to use cyber effects to achieve results that can have a greater impact on Royal Australian Navy operations than traditional kinetic means, often with an added layer of deniability.”
The nature of cyber warfare also means adversaries deliberately target the most vulnerable systems.
In addition to operational responsibilities, the FCU has been tasked with an educational role; personnel aboard Toowoomba regularly conduct cyber security awareness briefings to the ship's company.
Able Seaman Cryptologic Networks Jackson Cronin said that the emphasis was on the Navy Information Warfare Branch-developed "Navy Nine" cyber awareness criteria.
“The ship’s company have been receptive to our support as they understand the significance of cyber threats in the Middle East,” AB Cronin said.
This is the 68th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy unit in the Middle East since 1990, Toowoomba’s sixth deployment to the region, and her second as part of Operation MANITOU.
The move comes as the Royal Australian Air Force also seeks to shore up cyber defences, rolling out its No. 462 Squadron Cyberspace Incident Analyst Course in recent weeks. A six-month intensive training course, it is designed to train candidates for success in the RAAF’s two newest employment categories: Cyber Warfare Analyst and Cyber Warfare Officer.