The Australian Government is looking to establish a “Cyber Reserve” of private-sector computing specialists who could pitch in if a  major cyber attack targets Australia’s critical infrastructure, such as airports, the national electricity grid, or the military.

Australia’s Cyber Security minister Dan Tehan told a National Press Club luncheon meeting yesterday that plans for the reserve are well under way and will seek to enlist workers from technology outfits, universities, banks and telecommunications companies.

Like military Army Reserve members, they would receive a tax-free Army salary, and be required to work between 20-100 days a year.

This would largely follow the pattern set by the UK’s Cyber Reserve program, which launched in 2013 and now employs 500 computer specialists.

Tehan was briefed on the British program when he visited London last month.

Presenting the Australian Cyber Security Centre annual threat report, he said yesterday that “cyber espionage is alive and well and it’s something that we all need to be conscious about”.

Over the course of 2016-17, reports to the ACSC indicated losses of more than $20 million related to business e-mail trickery, more than double the $8.6 million nicked in 2015-16, Tehan said.