Australia's new cyber legion to ward off 'state based' attacks

In mid-June, Australia came under sustained cyberattack by a "state-based actor" - widely understood to have been the People's Republic of China. Canberra has now confirmed more than AU$1bn in funding and the recruitment of hundreds of cyber operatives in response.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced publicly that companies and government at all levels were targeted in June's cyber assault on Australia, but did not name the country involved.

Local media reported that the New South Wales (NSW) state government was a major target. The state is Australia's most populous and it is home to Sydney, the country's largest city with more than 5m people.

The attack on the NSW government was reportedly of serious concern to federal authorities and a significant motivation for Mr Morrison to warn the nation of the spike in "malicious" cyber raids. Mr Morrison stated, however, that investigations had found there had been no "large-scale" breaches of personal data: Australian cyber officials also suggested that in many cases hacks had been achieved but not fully exploited.

According to the Australian government there was a clear connection between the ramped up cyber attacks and Australia's diplomatic push for a global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which is thought to have angered Beijing. The new attacks reportedly exhibited many similarities to a cyber attack on Parliament House's computer system in February 2019, which Australian security agencies internally attributed to China although they never publicly stated this.

 

‘An affront to our sovereignty'

Former National Cyber Security Adviser Alastair MacGibbon told the Sydney Morning Herald that the threat definitely originated with "a sophisticated state-based actor" and suggested that it was part of a wider trend.

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