Australia under cyberattacks from state actor

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s prime minister revealed yesterday his country was under a broad cyberattack from a “state-based actor” targetting government, public services and businesses, with suspicions falling on China.

Warning Australians of “specific risks” and an increased tempo of attacks, Scott Morrison told a press conference that a range of sensitive institutions had been hit.

“This activity is targetting Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure,” he said.

Morrison levelled blame at a “sophisticated state-based cyber actor”, but declined to name the culprit, while saying that it could only come from one of a handful of states.

China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia, the United States (US) and a number of European countries are known to have developed advanced cyberwarfare capabilities.

But suspicions immediately fell on Beijing, which has clashed repeatedly with Canberra as it looks to increase the cost of Australia speaking out against Communist Party interests.

Last year Australia’s parliament, political parties and universities were targetted by state-backed cyberattacks, with China seen as the likely culprit.

Public broadcaster ABC cited “senior sources” confirming that China was believed to be behind the ongoing attacks as well.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said yesterday that China was “a staunch defender of cybersecurity” and has “always resolutely opposed and cracked down on all forms of cyberattacks”.

Beijing has previously described such allegations as “irresponsible” and an attempt to “smear” China.

Experts said attribution is often difficult, time-consuming and, if made public, could escalate tensions further.