July 18, 2018

Australia Jet And Navy Data Stolen In 'Extensive' Hack

12 October 2017, 08:01 | Devin Moran

Australian Defence Aircraft Data Hacked by “Partner Organisation” in 2016: ACSC

A hacker group codenamed'Alf after the Home and Away character has broken into a defence contractor and stolen sensitive data on military projects

The hackers have been given the code-name Alf, after the Home and Away character Alf Stewart.

The data was commercially sensitive but not classified, the government said.

The data, stolen in a 2016 breach, included technical information on the multi-billion dollar F-35A Joint Strike Fighter program, smart bombs and naval vessels.

"The compromise was extensive and extreme", Mr Clarke told the Australian Information Security Association national conference in audio obtained by freelance journalist Stilgherrian.

The breach began in July previous year, but the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) was not alerted until November.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told reporters in Adelaide "the information they have breached is commercial".

Speaking to ABC Radio National Breakfast, Pyne also confirmed that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and CERT Australia had been tipped off to the breach "by a prime" contractor to Defence.

The company had used default logins and passwords such as "admin" and "guest" and had only one person working on IT.

"Alf" used a tool named China Chopper, popular with Chinese hackers, but the group responsible could be a criminal group or state-sponsored, said Mr Clarke.

The subcontractor was revealed as using software that hadn't been updated for 12 months as well as username-password combinations, "admin-admin" and "guest-guest".

A report by ZDNet said officials referred to the months before ASD intervention as "Alf's mystery happy fun time".

It dubbed the hacker "ALF", after a character in TV soap opera Home and Away. "It's just a thing we do", he said.

"The Government does not intend to discuss further the details of this cyber incident".

"Companies like QinetiQ are making important investment decisions now to set themselves up for success in the future and to take advantage of these opportunities", said Pyne.

"If we got lucky this time, and it was only sensitive information, not even more significant information, we need to make sure there is no next time, the government needs to wake up to itself, start taking its responsibility seriously and start protecting sensitive defence information".

However, he said "we don't necessarily let the public know" about the identities of hackers, because such investigations often involve confidential information. "The ASD and the cyber security office immediately swung into action", he said.

Military spending would grow by A$29.9bn over 10 years, including plans to buy 72 Joint Strike Fighters, the 2016 Defence White Paper outlined.

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