Australia is under attack from dozens of malicious cyber attacks every week, many of them sponsored by foreign powers.
The attacks are getting more frequent and more serious, says one of the country's top security chiefs.
Security analysts say many of the attacks originate in China.
"The cyber threat is real. It has real consequences, it is persistent, it is here now," said Major General Stephen Day, deputy director of cyber and information security at the Australian Signals Directorate.
"We are in a daily struggle against malicious cyber threats."
Nearly 1800 cyber incidents were detected or reported to the Australian Signals Directorate last year, up from 1259 in 2011.
ASD, formerly the Defence Signals Directorate, is the defence department's top secret electronic intelligence gathering organisation and peak electronic security body.
There have been 789 attacks this year and there would have been more attacks either undetected or unreported, Maj Gen Day said.
He said 80 per cent were state-sponsored. These were the most active, sophisticated and best resourced.
They targeted defence and national security bodies, looking for vulnerable information.
"Once they do that, the preponderance of targeting is aimed at commercial information. We judge that 65 per cent of all cyber intrusions we see in CSOC have an economic focus," he told the Australian Defence Magazine cyber security summit in Canberra.
Major General Day said theft of intellectual property was a big risk.
"If you are involved also in defence industry, then you are one of the key target groups for state-sponsored cyber espionage."
He didn't identify the nations responsible but another speaker, US cyber strategist William Hagestad, pulled no punches.
"The threat by China is bad and it's going to get worse," he said.
"Australia needs to develop offensive cyber capabilities in order to defend yourselves."
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