Want to lead the Australian government’s hackers? Now’s your chance

The Australian Signals Directorate is seeking to recruit a senior executive to lead the branch of the agency dedicated to offensive cyber operations.

The ASD has begun accepting applications for the position of assistant director-general military effects and network operations, which sits within the organisation’s Signals Intelligence and Network Operations division.

The position reports to the ASD’s first assistant director-general network operations and access, Ben Staughton.

The federal government in April 2016 first publicly confirmed that the ASD housed what then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described as an “offensive cyber capability”.

“While cyber security measures sit at the forefront of our response to cyber threats, defensive measures may not always be adequate to respond to serious cyber incidents against Australian networks,” Turnbull said during the launch of Australia’s national cyber security strategy.

“The government can draw on a range of options to respond, such as law enforcement, diplomatic, or economic measures,” he added.

“An offensive cyber capability housed in the Australian Signals Directorate provides another option for government to respond.”

The then-PM said that the use of that capability was “subject to stringent legal oversight and is consistent with our support for the international rules-based order and our obligations under international law.”

“Acknowledging this offensive capability adds a level of deterrence,” Turnbull said. “It adds to our credibility, as we promote norms of good behaviour on the international stage; and, importantly, familiarity with offensive measures enhances our defensive capabilities as well.”

The ASD’s offensive capabilities are known to have been deployed as part of military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Turnbull in November 2016 outlined the ASD’s role, saying that while the details needed to remain classified, the agency’s capabilities were “making a real difference in the military conflict”.

The government has since expanded the ASD’s mandate for offensive operations, allowing it to target offshore criminal networks.

An information pack on the assistant director-general position states that the role “will lead the branch housing ASD’s offensive cyber operations”.

“You will need to inspire your branch, drive strategic change and prioritise competing business requirements to deliver outcomes for ASD, the [Australian Defence Force] and other partners,” the document states. “Exceptionally strong interpersonal skills will be required to negotiate persuasively and support your staff while they work through complex tasks.”

The assistant director-general’s workforce “will include technical, analytical and policy professionals in an integrated civilian, ADF and partner agency work environment,” the document says.

The executive will be tasked with leading a “high-performing branch of technical specialists and analysts to conduct offensive cyber operations to disrupt, degrade, deny and deter our adversaries, including foreign cyber criminals,” providing strategic advice on offensive cyber operations, and developing strategies “that address both current and likely future offensive cyber operational policy and planning requirements”.

The ASD is accepting applications until 6 February.

The agency is also seeking to fill a number of corporate roles, including in the areas of finance, administration, communications, event management and contracting and procurement.

The ASD last year embarked on a major transformation, becoming an independent statutory agency. In an interview in October, director-general Mike Burgess told Computerworld that the change was about giving the ASD “the flexibility to attract, recruit, train, retrain the specialist staff that it was recognised we needed to do our job.”

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