Australia's Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has warned European officials about the threat posed by engaging the "ineffectively governed" cyber space.
Australia's military chief has warned European officials of the ever-present threat posed by cyber espionage and intellectual property theft.
Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell said the "ineffectively governed" internet had fuelled an "extraordinary uptick" in international espionage, economic theft and corporate crime.
"The opportunities that the connected world provide are very significant, with the potential for very significant damage, both to companies and to institutions that we hold dear and also to states more broadly," General Campbell told an international policy institute in Brussels overnight.
"We've seen companies suffer devastating electronic attack. We have seen institutions undermined and we have seen countries shut down.
"All of these things have happened and there's a potential, therefore, for them to happen into the future."
NATO and the European Union are being encouraged to take a stronger stance against China's aggressive cyber activities.
Asked specifically about the threat posed by China, Russia and Iran, General Campbell said the problem was not confined to any small cluster of countries.
He stressed the need to focus on "cyber hygiene" in defending, containing and securing networks and information in the cyber space.
"The question at play nationally is how do we appropriately build some effective governance mechanisms without losing the value we all appreciate from the internet," General Campbell said.
"This is a really important part of the modern evolution of our societies, our economies and our body politic."