Chinese hackers blamed for ASIO cyber attack

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A cyber attack originating from China is responsible for the theft of classified blueprints for the new ASIO headquarters in Canberra, Four Corners has reported.

(Cyberspace image by openDemocracy, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The alleged attack, which targeted one of the contractors working on the building, is said to have stolen highly classified information about the new AU$630 million building, which was due to be opened in April, but remains unused. The blueprints contain information about the building's floor plan, communications systems, security and server locations.

Four Corners also found that the Defence, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Foreign Affairs and Trade departments have all been the target of and broken into by sustained hacking operations, with sensitive documents stolen. The Reserve Bank and Department of Statistics were also targeted unsuccessfully.

However, Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus declined to confirm the attack. "There's a great deal of intelligence material, espionage-related material that we don't comment on," he told the ABC.

Four Corners did not reveal the source of this information, the name of the contractor or when the attack took place. However, if true, it would mean that China could install surveillance in the building. Professor Des Ball from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre told Four Corners: "Once you get those building plans, you can start constructing your own wiring diagrams, where the linkages are through telephone connections, through Wi-Fi connections, which rooms are likely to be the ones that are used for sensitive conversations, how to surreptitiously put devices into the walls of those rooms."

It is important to note, however, that hackers often route their attacks through third-party servers in other countries, and that without knowing more about how this investigation was conducted, it's impossible to know for certain whether the original attack did in fact originate in China.

The Chinese Government has recently been accused of a number of cyber attacks around the globe; earlier this month, the Pentagon accused the rising global power of engaging in a sustained cyber espionage campaign against the US Government.

You can watch the full "Hacked!" episode of Four Corners on the ABC website.

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