China has denied that it was the protagonist behind the recent cyber-attack on Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) had been informed by several credible sources that the attempted hack had without doubt almost certainly come from China, and was ‘massive’ in scale.
The report claimed that Chinese hackers attempt to breach Australia’s BoM may have been an attempt to access higher level information of national security data. While hacking a government weather service may at first seem an unlikely first choice for a Chinese government hack, it may have been part of a coordinated attempt to gain higher level access. Australia’s weather bureau is host to one the country’s super-computer’s that is not only networked into the Australian Department of Defense but is routinely utilized by a multitude of other government agencies.
The breach was described as “massive” by the unnamed government official, who told ABC News that he was certain “it was China” that breached the systems. He added that fixing the Bureau of Meteorology’s network to close the holes used to gain access would cost millions of dollars. The attack has damaged systems across the federal government and plugging the security breach will cost of millions of dollars, ABC reported, citing official sources.
According to one source in the ABC, “there was little doubt that the attack came from China.”
China foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying responded to the Australian allegations said:
“As we have reiterated on many occasions, the Chinese government is opposed to all forms of cyber-attacks. We have stressed that cyber security needs to be based on mutual respect. “We believe it is not constructive to make groundless accusations or speculation.”
However the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Peter Jennings said that there was clear evidence China was behind the hack. Jennings said that:
“They’re looking for the weakest link and so if you go into an agency, which may have a level of security clearance, but perhaps not as high as central parts of the national security community, maybe there are weaknesses they can exploit which will enable them to then move into other, more highly-valued targets.”
In September, the US Government considered placing economic sanctions against China in retaliation for the alleged hacking of US Federal servers. Up to 4 million government employees personal and professional information was stolen. Last year, the US Justice Department sought indictments against five high ranking Chinese military officers claiming they were in charge of hackers attempting to infiltrate and steal industry secrets from American companies.