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Friday, April 16, 2021

Australia under cyber attack: Is China behind this? All details in 6 points

It seems like a coronavirus-like situation has emerged for the Aussie cyber world. Australia is grappling with massive cyber attack, one of the deadliest the country faced in decades! Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the attack as “malicious and sophisticated” and “state-based”.

Morrison called a press conference on Friday and informed the country about the existence of a “state-based cyber actor” which has been targeting several Australian agencies for some months.

The malicious cyber intrusion has already affected several government agencies, industry, education, health, political organizations and essential service providers among others, the Aussie PM revealed!

Here are 6 major highlights on the Australia cyber attack

1. What did the Aussie PM say on Friday?

Morrison said his country has been under massive cyber attack for past few months. It has affected essential services and businesses. Though the PM didn’t specify any particular state actor, he mentioned that incidents of major personal data breaches have taken place. Morrison said he called the news conference to make individuals and business establishments to enhance their web security and defence. The PM also said that any country in the world can come under such attack anytime.

2. Which sectors have been affected by the cyber attack?

As Morrison said there is no particular sector, but widespread data breaches have happened in various fields. Government contractors, defence manufacturers and accounting firms have reportedly come under this attack. Last year, Australia’s major political parties and Australian National University said that they had been hit by a sophisticated operation that drew valuable information about the organizations and their staff.

3. Who’s behind this data breach operation?

The Australian government so far hasn’t specified about it. They said the nature and scale of the attack proves that the operation has been a sophisticated one. As per a report by BBC, Morrison said there are not a large number of state actors that can engage in this type of activity. He declined to make any public attribution.

4. Who is/are the possible culprit(s)?

According to cyber experts, mainly four countries – China, Russia, North Korea and Iran – have the capacity and reasons for such attack. Morrison said these countries are not allied with Australia and hence they can do it.

“There is always simmering tensions between Russia and China so really it comes down to those being the key actors they (Australia) would be referring to.” – Cyber expert Joshua Kennedy-White. Source: BBC.

Reuters had earlier reported that some Chinese agencies had carried out the Australian parliament information hack in 2019. However, the Australian government declined to either confirm or negate it.

5. So what the Australian government is doing to combat it?

The Australian government said that the healthcare service providers should especially gear up to improve their cyber defence. The Aussie PM said persistent and coordinated efforts can prevent the attacks. The PM emphasized on generating mass awareness about the issue so that people can do their bit to thwart any hacking.

According to a report by The Guardian, Australian cyber experts claim that it is “95% or more” likely an attack by China. However, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has rubbished the allegations.

6. What the US is doing in this issue?

The US state secretary, Mike Pompeo, has said he confronted top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi over China’s actions around the globe, including the latest cyber attack in Australia, during a six-hour meeting in Hawaii. The US said they are keeping a close watch on China’s activities across the world, including their recent border row with India.

“There is only one country which has the combination of capability and motive and that’s China. Neither Russia nor North Korea has the major strategic interest in Australian politics at present.” – Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Source: CNN

Australia had faced similar cyber attacks in 2015, 2017 and 2019. In those attacks, information was stolen from the Australian navy, department of meteorology, universities, government firms and other such establishments.


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