Australian spy HQ plans ‘stolen by hackers’
Foreign minister says reported Chinese cyber attack will not damage relations
Australia’s foreign minister Bob Carr said the report theft of plans for the country’s spy headquarters by Chinese hackers would not damage Canberra’s ties with its biggest trade partner China. Photograph: Reuters.
Chinese hackers have reportedly stolen the blueprints of a new multi-million-dollar Australian spy headquarters as part of a growing wave of cyber attacks against business and military targets in the country.
The hackers also stole confidential information from the department of foreign affairs and trade, which houses the overseas spy agency the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australia’s ABC Television said.
The report, which did not name sources, said Chinese hackers had targeted Australia-based companies more aggressively than previously thought, including steel-manufacturer Bluescope Steel, and military and civilian communications manufacturer Codan Ltd.
The influential Greens party today said the reported hacking was a “security blunder of epic proportions” and called for an inquiry, but the government refused to confirm the security breach.
Foreign minister Bob Carr said the report would not damage Canberra’s ties with its biggest trade partner China. “We have enormous areas of cooperation with China. I won’t comment on whether the Chinese have done what is being alleged or not,” Mr Carr told reporters.
Hackers using a computer server traced to China had stolen floorplans of a new A$630 million headquarters for the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation, the country’s domestic spy agency, said the ABC report.
The attack through the computers of a construction contractor exposed not only building layouts, but also the location of communication and computer networks.
The ASIO building, being built near the location of Australia’s top secret Defence Signals Directorate, is supposed to have some of the most sophisticated hacking defences in the country, which is part of a global electronic intelligence gathering network including the United States and the UK. But its construction had been plagued by delays and cost blowouts, with some builders blaming late changes made to the internal design in response to cyber attacks.
Australian officials, like those in the United States and other Western nations, have made cyber attacks a security priority following a growing number of attacks of the resource rich country, mostly blamed on China.
Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei was last year barred from bidding for construction contracts on a new Australian high-speed broadband network amid fears of cyber espionage.
The Reserve Bank of Australia said in March that it had been targeted by cyber attacks, but no data had been lost or systems compromised amid reports the hackers had tried to access intelligence on Group of 20 wealthy nations negotiations.
In the United States, the Pentagon’s latest annual report on Chinese military developments accused Beijing for the first time of trying to break into US defence networks, calling it “a serious concern”.
China has dismissed as groundless both the Pentagon report and a February report by the US computer security company Mandiant, which said a secretive Chinese military unit was probably behind a series of hacking attacks targeting the United States that had stolen data from 100 companies.