Australia joins NATO cyber defence group, opens “pop-up” embassy in Estonia

Australia has joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE).

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop announced Australia’s CCDCOE membership alongside a new “pop-up” in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn on Monday. The embassy will be open for one year to facilitate Australia’s participation in CCDCOE, which is also based in Tallinn. 

In recognition of Estonia’s best known startup, Bishop joined the opening via Skype video.   

NATO CCDCOE developed the Tallinn Manual 2.0 guide, a body of research that looks at how international law applies to the cyber domain, covering issues such as legal jurisdiction, the law of armed conflict, air, space and sea laws, and diplomatic relations.  

As part of its membership Australia will be sending one member of the Australian Defence Force for a three-month period each year. Australia will also “observe” this year’s CCDCOE-run annual cyber defence exercise, Locked Shields, according to Bishop.  

Last year’s exercise saw participants defend networks in the face of severe simulated cyber attacks on the electricity grid, drones, military systems, and critical IT infrastructure. 

Sponsoring nations include Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US. Austria, Finland and Sweden are “contributing participants”, a status for non-NATO nations that join. 

Australia is the second non-NATO country outside the EU to join the organisation. Japan joined the NATO CCDCOE in January. 

“Australia welcomes the opportunity to deepen engagement with the world-leading cyber defence experts at the NATO CCDCOE. Now, more than ever, we must engage with the international community to set clear expectations for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. The international rules based order applies online, just as it does offline,” said Bishop in a statement. 

“While we must be vigilant to risk, we should not lose sight of the fact that digital technologies are also profound enablers of sustainable development and inclusive economic growth.” 

Australia’s membership with NATO CCDCOE is part of the government’s International Cyber Engagement Strategy, according to Bishop. 


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