Aus­tralia stealth fighter hack points to China, say of­fi­cials

The Nation - - WORLD -

SEN­SI­TIVE data about Aus­tralia’s F-35 stealth fighter and P-8 sur­veil­lance aircraft pro­grammes were stolen when a de­fence sub­con­trac­tor was hacked us­ing a tool widely used by Chi­nese cy­ber crim­i­nals, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

The 50-per­son aero­space engi­neer­ing firm was com­pro­mised in July last year but the na­tional cy­ber se­cu­rity agency, the Aus­tralian Sig­nals Direc­torate (ASD), only be­came aware of the breach in Novem­ber, tech­nol­ogy web­site ZDNet Aus­tralia re­ported.

Some 30GB of “sen­si­tive data” sub­jected to re­stricted ac­cess un­der the US gov­ern­ment’s In­ter­na­tional Traf­fic in Arms Reg­u­la­tions rules were stolen, ASD’s Mitchell Clarke told a se­cu­rity con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day ac­cord­ing to ZDNet.

Clarke, who worked on the case and did not name the sub­con­trac­tor, said information about the F-35, the US’ lat­est gen­er­a­tion of fighter jets, as well as the P8, an ad­vanced sub­ma­rine hunter and sur­veil­lance craft, were lifted.

An­other doc­u­ment was a wire­frame di­a­gram of one of the Aus­tralian navy’s new ships, where a viewer could “zoom in down to the cap­tain’s chair”.

The hack­ers used a tool called “China Chopper” which ac­cord­ing to se­cu­rity ex­perts is widely used by Chi­nese ac­tors, and had gained ac­cess via an In­ter­net-fac­ing server, he said.

In other parts of the net­work, the sub­con­trac­tor also used in­ter­net-fac­ing ser­vices that still had their de­fault pass­words “ad­min” and “guest”.

Those brought in to as­sess the at­tack nick­named the hacker Alf after a char­ac­ter on the pop­u­lar Aus­tralian soap “Home and Away”, Clarke said. The three month pe­riod where they were un­aware of the breach they dubbed “Alf ’s Mys­tery Happy Fun Time”.

De­fence In­dus­try Min­is­ter Christo­pher Pyne told re­porters in Ade­laide “the information they have breached is com­mer­cial”.

“It is not clas­si­fied and it is not dan­ger­ous in terms of the mil­i­tary,” he said.

Pyne added that Aus­tralia was in­creas­ingly a tar­get for cy­ber crim­i­nals as it was un­der­tak­ing a mas­sive Aus$50 bil­lion (Bt1.2 tril­lion) sub­ma­rine project which he de­scribed as the world’s largest.

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