China State Hackers Hit Australian Defense Systems ‘Daily’

China State Hackers Hit Australian Defense Systems 'Daily'

China-based hackers have made it a habit to target Australia's defense apparatus, according to government sources.

The Australian Broadcasting Company’s Four Corners division said in a report that “unnamed intelligence sources” believe that Chinese state-sponsored hackers have targeted the governmental research division known as the Defence Science Technology Group, along with Austrade, the Australian trade commission. And, further, such attacks have gone on for years, the sources said, with Austrade and Australian defense networks having faced “significant cyber penetrations” over the past five years.

The Australian prime minister's cybersecurity advisor, Alastair MacGibbon, told the news outlet that the government was "attacked on a daily basis", but that any breaches are routinely not disclosed.

New details as to the high-profile attack on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have also surfaced: Sources said that the true goal of that offensive was to compromise defense assets linked to the BoM and data-collection capabilities. These include the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, which is tasked with developing highly detailed maps for military and espionage purposes, and the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN), an “over-the-horizon” radar run by the Royal Australian Air Force. In addition to civilian weather forecasting, it provides 24-hour military surveillance of the northern and western approaches to Australia. That said, the attacks were not successful.

"I would say to you that people who compromise systems will usually try to find a way to move laterally through it,” said MacGibbon. “If that means through a third party that's what they'll try to do.”

China is also targeting private assets. ABC said that Australian satellite company Newsat (now defunct) had to be secretly rebuilt after it was comprehensively penetrated by Chinese hackers in 2013.

"Given we were up against China, state-sponsored, a lot of money behind them and a lot of resources and we were only a very small IT team, it certainly wasn't a fair fight for us," Newsat's former IT manager Daryl Peter told ABC.

As for official reactions to the report, a spokesman for the Defence Science Technology Group told the International Business Times that "Defense policy is to not comment on matters of national security."

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra meanwhile told ABC that the accusations are "totally groundless" and "false clichés". He added: "Like other countries, China suffers from serious cyberattacks and is one of the major victims of hacking attacks in the world."

Photo © Chris Howey

Source: Information Security Magazine