In retaliation for banning telco Huawei from the 5G network, “cyber attacks” on the Australian government and industry bodies are most likely being directed by China’s premier intelligence agency, some experts say.
The Australian government banned Huawei and other companies from involvement in Australia’s 5G network in August 2018, which, according to some experts, sparked the malicious cyber campaign.
Evidence suggested that the attackers may be linked to the Ministry of State Security (MSS) — China’s most powerful intelligence service — as per a former official.
“Based on the evidence, I’d say it strongly leans towards MSS,” said cybersecurity researcher Robert Potter, who also noted that the low level of sophistication of the attacks made attribution difficult.
“The reality is that the tactics are so simple that it frustrates our ability to make complete attribution,” added Potter, who agreed with the assessment that the campaign has been going on for a long time.
“The campaign dates back sometime and correlates to a deterioration in our relationship with China,” he said.
In a press conference, the Prime Minister discussed the campaign intrusions, saying: “This activity is targeting Australian organizations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organizations, education, health, essential service providers, and operators of other critical infrastructure.”
“It’s massive — we’ve had some big ones before, and this is just as big,” a former official said, adding that the recent intrusions were likely designed to achieve two broad outcomes, the former official said.
“[This is] a concerted campaign against the Australian economy and political systems … for the purposes of gathering strategic information and causing economic damage,” added the former official, who also mentioned that it was likely some of the activity was also connected to attempts to steal information linked to Australia’s COVID-19 response.
On May 13, the FBI warned that China was attempting to steal US research data connected to the pandemic. Similarly, the Australia Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) — a division of Australia’s primary electronic intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate — experienced the same thing as announced a few days earlier.
China’s government, on Friday evening, rejected suggestions of a large-scale hacking attack.
Edited from an article written by Dylan Welch, Echo Hui, Stephen Dziedzic/abc.net.au