Four Corners Program:Hackers stole Australia’s Spy Agency Blueprints

Posted on May 30, 2013 01:06 pm

Despite being thousands of miles away, I always follow what is going on back home. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that ties between Australia and China would not be hurt by revelations of state owned Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative Four Corners program of an attack on a contractor involved with building the new Canberra headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. According to ABC, the documents taken in the cyber attack included cabling layouts for the huge building’s security and communications systems, its floor plan, and its server locations. Until this moment, I have no idea why Bob Carr has refused to confirm or deny China was behind the attack despite the states broadcaster confirmation that servers used in attacks originated from China. Although I understand that government officials globally rarely comment on matters of intelligence and security because of potential aggressors, Carr should have let the country know if the damage was consequential or not.

Despite Australia having decades old military alliance with the United States, latest data shows that China is the country’s largest trading partner and since the reign of Kevin Rudd the two countries have forged closer ties and that could have prompted to Bob Carr’s move not to antagonize China. The theft has exposed the security agency to being spied on by a partner. ABC’s program clip which I have managed to watch, indicates that a cost blowout and delays to the opening of the building maybe inevitable. In addition to that, the attackers now knows which parts of the building to target and which ones were likely to be used for sensitive conversations, documentation, analysis and how to put devices into the walls for espionage. Obtaining the ASIO’s building plans, attackers may construct their own wiring diagrams, linkages through telephone connections, Wi-Fi connections and many more breaches that will threaten the country’s security.

Two years ago, the computers of Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard, the then foreign minister Kevin Rudd and others at defense ministry were hacked, with attacks originating in China but Beijing dismissed the allegations as groundless and made out of ulterior purposes. In another high profile case earlier this year, computer networks at the Reserve Bank of Australia were hacked and infected by what investigators revealed were Chinese developed malware searching for sensitive information. That attack in my opinion was more or less a retaliation following Chinese telecoms company Huawei being barred in 2012 from bidding for contracts on country’s ambitious Aus$36 billion broadband project for fears of cyber attacks. ASIO will have to redesign the building and with the attack being cited as a reason for the delay to the building’s completion, the agency has to act on attackers. Theft of a highly sensitive document from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service rated higher than confidential, according to Four Corners sources would give China a “significant advantage when dealing with Australia.” As the authorities keep saying they don’t comment on intelligence or espionage related content as has been the longstanding practice of Australian Governments for many years, I advocate for hackers to be shut before it’s too late.

Contador Harrison