Hackers Breach Australia’s Cyber Security System

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
March 30, 2011 /

Alleged Chinese hackers are reported to have penetrated the cyber security system of Australia despite tight measures adopted by its parliament, compromising computers in the office of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and several other MPs.

Australian government was shocked upon seeing a number of indications pointing to attempts of hacking into the Parliament’s computer system, allegedly perpetrated by hackers from China. The Daily Telegraph reported that government officials confirmed the breach has started one month ago.

Chinese hackers were previously accused of similar cyber crime when the computer systems of global oil companies have been compromised, allegedly in an attempt to steal highly sensitive information according to security firm McAfee.

InAudit notes that hackers often use social engineering, spearphishing attacks, exploitation of Microsoft Windows operating systems vulnerabilities, Microsoft Active Directory compromises, and the remote administration tools (RATs) to breach their cyber security system.

David Irvine, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), was quoted as saying that they have seen “constant attempts by cyber means to steal the nation’s secrets, as well as information vital to the effective operation of critical national industries and infrastructure, not to mention commercial intelligence and criminal fraud.”

Irvine added the 21st century will be a time for the strength of nuclear weapon advantages of advanced countries to be reduced by the cyber age.

According to reports in Sydney’s local papers, the cyber security breach has already compromised more than 10 federal offices of Members of the Parliament. Officials refused to comment on the matter.

The hackers allegedly penetrated the emails of PM Gillard, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith, though this medium is not used by the Parliament in communicating highly confidential matters. It is believed the attack took place in the Australian Parliament House (APH) email network which the MPs used in casual communication.

The cyber security breach was first reported by the CIA and FBI, which tipped off Australian intelligence officials in ASIO.

According to one of the local papers in Sydney, sources from the government confirmed they received information alleging that Chinese hackers were among the suspects. But China denied the allegations.

Recently, Australia has established the Cyber Security Operations Center within the Defense Department and the Computer Emergency Response to manage threats against its cyber security, both in public and in private establishments.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland told the Telegraph that “Australia’s security and intelligence agencies, as a matter of course, work closely and co-operatively with their international counterparts on cyber security.”


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