Report warns of cyber-attacks on Australian government networks after foreign spies hack Bureau of Meteorology

Vittorio Hernandez
Inernational Business Times AU

malware-lab
An analyst looks at code in the malware lab of a cyber security defense lab at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho September 29, 2011. Reuters/Jim Urquhart

The Australian government networks are at risk of cyber-attacks, a new report warns. Foreign spies had actually hacked into the Bureau of Meteorology in 2015 to steal sensitive documents, according to the 2016 Threat Report to be released on Wednesday.

However, Dan Tehan, the minister assisting the prime minister for cyber security, declines to identify the foreign government power involved, but confirms cyber espionage continues. Because the threat is real, the government is taking all the measures needed to keep the country’s networks safe, News.com.au reports.

The foreign hacker installed malicious software and stole sensitive documents. The Australian Signals Directorate detected suspicious activity from two computers of the bureau’s network. Upon investigation, it identified the presence of particular Remote Access Tool (RAT) malware popular with state-sponsored cyber adversaries and other malware associated with cybercrime, according to the report.

It is not just the bureau where the RAT was used to compromise security since the malware was also found in other Australian government networks. The hack occurred due to insufficient protection on the network from more common threats linked with cybercrime. The most significant threat to the bureau’s data retention and continuity of operations came from CrytoLocker ransomware, ABC reports.

Tehan declined to specify the country involved, although ABC says China is behind the hacking based on what an unnamed official told the media firm in 2015. “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 and that’s why we want to be transparent in this report about the incident,” Tehan explains.

At that time, China denied it was behind the hacking. Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s foreign ministry, said then in a statement, “As we have reiterated on many occasions, the Chinese government is opposed to all forms of cyber-attacks.”

Besides the bureau, local government networks recorded 1,095 serious cyber-attacks in the last year and a half to June 30, 2016.

The hack occurred despite the development by Defense Science and Technology Group scientists of theDigital Video Guard in 2015 to keep safe internet transactions, content and application by providing decrypting of untrusted computer infrastructure.

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