Chi­nese Hack­ers Be­hind De­fence Se­cu­rity Breaches

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Sen­si­tive Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate com­puter net­works have been pen­e­trated by so­phis­ti­cated cy­ber at­tacks. A Four Cor­ners (an Aus­tralian cur­rent af­fairs tele­vi­sion pro­gramme on ABC) in­ves­ti­ga­tion has es­tab­lished that these hacked net­works in­clude those hold­ing highly con­fi­den­tial plans for a pri­vately fi­nanced geo­sta­tion­ary com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite. Austrade and the De­fence De­part­ment’s elite re­search di­vi­sion, now named the De­fence Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy Group, both suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant cy­ber in­fil­tra­tions in the past five years by hack­ers based in China.

In­tel­li­gence sources say they sus­pect the at­tack­ers in these cases were spon­sored by Bei­jing.

Four Cor­ners has also con­firmed Newsat Ltd, an Aus­tralian satel­lite com­pany whose as­sets were sold off last year af­ter the com­pany went into ad­min­is­tra­tion, was so com­pre­hen­sively in­fil­trated three years ago that its en­tire net­work had to be re­built in se­cret.

But these in­ci­dents, re­vealed for the first time, are only a frac­tion of the cy­ber at­tacks be­ing waged against Aus­tralian gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies. The Prime Min­is­ter’s cy­ber se­cu­rity ad­viser, Alas­tair MacGib­bon, told the pro­gramme the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment was “at­tacked on a daily ba­sis”.

“We don’t talk about all the breaches that oc­cur,” he said. For­mer Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency boss Michael Hay­den, who also served for six years as the head of the US elec­tronic spy­ing di­vi­sion, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency (NSA), said both Aus­tralia and the US had to harden up their de­fences and “pro­tect their data” from for­eign cy­ber at­tacks.

A radar net­work run by the Air Force may have been a tar­get for hack­ers.

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