A major cyber-attack has been reported by a prominent Australian news outlet that reveals Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology may have been compromised in a substantial attack. The blame game is firmly laid on China’s doorstep.
Multiple government sources and officials have reportedly confirmed a recent cyber-attack targeting Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The Bureau is home to one of Australia’s largest supercomputers and is a broader environmental agency, beyond a simple weather bureau. It is known to provide critical information to the
Australian Federal government and a raft of other agencies. In March this year, the Bureau’s chief executive, Dr. Robert Vertessy was quoted as saying the agency had transitioned “from what was once just a straight weather service to what I would call now a broad-based environmental service agency.”
Deemed a critical national resource, an attacker is likely to look at the Bureau of Meteorology as a high-value target for intellectual property and scientific research. The Bureau is also directly linked in to Australia’s Department of Defense in the capital city of Canberra.
“It’s China,” said one official speaking to the publication.
Operational but Unsecured
In a statement on its website, the Bureau of Meteorology stated that it does not comment on security matters while confirming that the Bureau’s systems are fully operational. The Bureau added it was working closely with Australian Government security agencies.
“The Bureau’s systems are fully operational and the Bureau continues to provide reliable, on-going access to high-quality weather, climate, water and oceans information to its stakeholders,” the statement read.
Although operational, the Bureau of Meteorology remains unsecured, according to ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann. When asked why the system is currently unsecure, he stated:
[It is] because the Bureau provides critical information…to things like airfields and airlines, so it can’t be shut down to be fixed. So the defenses around it have to be built on the run.
When asked why ABC’s sources are certain that the hack came from China, he stated:
They [official sources] were certain it was China, they classify these in a number of different ways, they say that quite a lot of the attacks come from people who are just hackers, who are trying it on, but then you do get criminals who are trying to hack into the system. They believe that this was a state-based attack, they believe it was China.
He added that the Chinese Embassy was contacted in the aftermath of the incident, with no response just yet.
China’s prominence as a cyber-power is notable in the way that multiple breaches and cyber-attacks from around the world are attributed to China-based hackers or even state-backed hacker groups. A security expert recently claimed that China had “penetrated every major U.S. corporation,” while one NSA map revealed all U.S. installations including private companies targeted by China.
The most recent cyberattack targeting Australia comes within weeks of a pact agreed by the world’s wealthiest economies. The recent G20 summit had world leaders pledge against commercial hacking, which the government targeting Bureau breach doesn’t fall under.
Images from Shutterstock and the Bureau of Meteorology.