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Foreign spies the culprit of BoM hack


Last year’s hack of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has been attributed to a foreign power, according to a new report from the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

According to the 2016 Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat report, a foreign power installed malware on the BoM’s computer system to steal sensitive documents and compromise other government networks.

The report states that suspicious activity was detected on two computers on the bureau’s network last year.

“On investigation, ASD (Australian Signals Directorate) identified the presence of particular Remote Access Tool (RAT) malware popular with state-sponsored cyber adversaries, amongst other malware associated with cyber crime,” the report reads.

“The RAT has also been used to compromise other Australian government networks.”

The report attributed the primary compromise to a foreign intelligence service, which it stated was likely able to steal sensitive information. However, it noted that the government had insufficient security controls in place to prevent cyber crime.

An unnamed official had previously told the ABC “It’s China”, but Dan Tehan, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security, has declined to attribute the attack to a specific source.

“We don’t narrow it down to specific countries, and we do that deliberately, but what we have indicated is that cyber espionage is alive and well,” he told the ABC today.   

Speaking to The Australian, he mentioned terrorist group Islamic State.

“[They are] using social media for propaganda and recruitment, but their skills to launch a genuine cyber attack are rudimentary. That won’t always be the case and the ACSC estimates that within three years, terrorists will have the ability to compromise a secure network and generate significant disruptive or destructive effect for at least the next two to three years.”

According to the ACSC report, “At this point in time, terrorists are more likely to embarrass governments, impose financial costs, and achieve propaganda victories by compromising and affecting poorly secured networks.”

Local government networks suffered 1095 serious cyber assaults in the 18 months to June 30 this year, as reported by The Australian.

The ACSC report states that the term “cyber attack” is often misused and should refer only to a deliberate act to destroy or degrade networks with the effect of compromising national security or economic prosperity. Based on this definition, it says Australia has yet to be the victim of a cyber attack, although the risk for such attacks has increased.

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