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ASD's purpose

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) defends Australia from global threats, and advances the national interest through the provision of foreign signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber operations, as directed by Government.

ASD is a statutory agency within the Defence  portfolio, reporting directly to the Minister for Defence.  It operates under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. All of ASD’s activities are subject to oversight from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security provides further oversight of ASD’s administration, expenditure and enabling legislation. It also considers other matters within its scope that are referred by the Australian Senate, House of Representatives, or a Minister of the Australian Government.

ASD operates under the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which specifies that the organisation’s functions are to:

  • collect foreign signals intelligence
  • communicate foreign signals intelligence
  • prevent and disrupt offshore cyber enabled crime
  • provide cyber security advice and assistance to Australian governments, businesses and individuals
  • support military operations
  • protect the specialised tools ASD uses to fulfil its functions
  • cooperate with, and assist, the national  security community’s performance of its functions.

To achieve these objectives, ASD needs to keep pace with the latest technology trends and invest in cutting edge capabilities to gain asymmetric advantage. ASD’s activities are enabled by innovative techniques, including specialist tools to detect threats in large volumes of data. ASD’s mastery of technology also underpins the formulation of sound advice to protect Australia from sophisticated cyber threats.

Partnerships are critical to the organisation’s success. ASD works closely with the Australian national security community, overseas intelligence and cyber security partners, academia and industry. This level of collaboration is essential to comprehensively understand the threat environment and to stay at the leading edge of technology.

ASD’s success is founded in the ingenuity of its workforce. The organisation seeks to recruit and develop a curious and imaginative workforce who are not deterred by difficult challenges.  Recruiting the requisite specialist technological expertise has become increasingly challenging, given the high demand for staff with these skillsets. ASD’s transition to a statutory agency provides an opportunity to design new career pathways and employment opportunities so that ASD can better recruit, retain, train and develop its specialist staff.

This combination of a uniquely skilled workforce, empowered by innovative technology, enabled by responsible financial management and leveraging partner capabilities, positions the organisation to  deliver trusted intelligence, cyber security expertise  and offensive cyber operations for Australia’s national interest.

ASD has five strategic objectives:

  • ASD delivers strategic advantage for Australia by providing foreign signals intelligence that protects and advances Australia’s national interest. Foreign intelligence collection activities are guided by strategic priorities set by Government.
  • ASD is the Australian Government’s leading cyber security agency, and aims to make Australia the safest place to connect online and to foster national cyber security resilience. ASD’s Australian Cyber Security Centre monitors cyber threats targeting Australian interests, and provides advice and information, including through an international network of Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) to help protect Australians. When serious cyber incidents occur, ASD leads the Australian Government response to help mitigate the threat and strengthen defences.
  • ASD has a long history of supporting Australian military operations, with the organisation’s heritage dating back to the Second World War. Today, ASD supports Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations around the globe, including by providing intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities to enable the warfighter and protect ADF personnel and assets. ASD also draws on its deep technical expertise to help the ADF stay ahead of technology advancements in the region, including the introduction of 5th generation weapons and cyber-warfare capabilities.
  • ASD capabilities play an important role in countering cyber-enabled threats. The organisation protects Australia and Australians by preventing and disrupting offshore cyber-enabled crime, including the activities of organised criminal groups using malware to target Australians, and terrorists who use the internet to plan and incite attacks against Australian interests.
  • ASD provides trusted advice and expertise to government, business and the community. ASD draws on its deep technical understanding of communications technology to help the Australian Government and the public understand the nature of the cyber threat environment, how they might be vulnerable and what they can do to protect themselves.