CANBERRA, Australia, Australia’s weather agency computers were hacked, and China could be the culprit, according to government sources.
Large-scale cyber attacks hit the Bureau of Meteorology, compromising sensitive systems across Australia’s government, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Wednesday.
The data breach could “take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix,” according to government sources.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute Executive Director Peter Jennings said there is evidence China was behind the cyberattack.
“We certainly know that among the most active intelligence gatherers is Chinese intelligence…So what we understand of the Chinese attack on the BoM is entirely consistent with what we know of how Chinese intelligence operates,” Jennings said.
China, however, has denied any links to the hacking.
“As we have reiterated on many occasions, the Chinese government is opposed to all forms of cyberattacks,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “We have stressed that cybersecurity needs to be based on mutual respect.”
The hackers could have accessed volumes of data at the weather agency, including environmental intelligence, and it was unclear if they were able to access a link to Australia’s Department of Defense.
There is much speculation over the party responsible, but in 2013 U.S. security firm Mandiant published a study of Unit 61398, a clandestine military unit located in the People’s Liberation Army building in Shanghai – detailing how the unit receives “direct government support” to wage long-running cyber espionage campaigns.
In 2014, the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike said a group with Chinese government ties, dubbed “Hurricane Panda,” targeted U.S. technology companies.
China has publicly condemned cybertheft, and U.S. President Barack Obama said in September the United States and China had reached a consensus on putting an end to cyber crimes.
China also denied involvement in cyber attacks mentioned in a Daily Telegraph report in 2011, Bloomberg reported. The report had suggested China’s hackers accessed the emails of senior Australian officials, including then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.