Australia is one of the world’s most hacked countries, according to a list compiled by security company Specops Software. Coming in at equal sixth in the world as targets of “significant” cyber attacks, Australia has reported 16 major incidents since 2010.
The US tops the list with 156 incidents – three times more than the UK which recorded the second-most significant cyber attacks at 47. Created using data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) – which regularly updates a timeline of major cyber incidents – the list once again highlights Australia’s prevalence as a target for cyber warfare at a time of heightened awareness about cyber risks.
The CSIS list of “significant” incidents focuses on times when bad actors have targeted government agencies, defense or high-tech companies, and incidents with an economic cost above US$1 million. Starting in 2010 with a hack attempt on Rio Tinto, the listed Australian incidents show a decade-long pattern of cyber espionage targeting mining companies, Defence contractors, and government agencies.
Ten years ago, the Australian Signals Directorate warned of a spike in attacks on Australian government and business systems – a warning that was repeated by the Prime Minister last month. In the decade that followed, hackers stole the blueprints for the new Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) headquarters, tried to hack the plans for Australia’s new submarine fleet, successfully attacked the Bureau of Meteorology, breached the Australian National University twice, and broke into Australia’s parliamentary networks.
Of the sixteen occasions when Australian agencies or organisations were targeted in the past ten years, around half of them included references to alleged Chinese actors. Upon news of the latest string of cyber attacks targeting Australia, the ABC reported that China was believed to be behind it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, denied any Chinese involvement in the cyber incidents. “China is a staunch guardian of cyber security and also one of the greatest victims of hacking,” Lijian said. “We oppose and crack down, in accordance with law, all forms of cyber espionage and attacks. This position is consistent and clear.” China has reported roughly the same number of significant cyber incidents as Australia since 2006, according to the Specops list