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Australia is blaming China for a cyber attack on a supercomputer at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) that has links to multiple government agencies including the Department of Defence.
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The “massive” attack has raised fears that potentially sensitive national security information may have been compromised, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The report said “multiple official sources” have confirmed the attack, that it is expected to cost millions of dollars and possibly take years to plug the security breach, and that government officials are “confident” the attack came from China.
The BoM supercomputer contains a lot of research, but could be viewed as a potential gateway to a host of government agencies that have even more sensitive information.
In a statement, the BoM said it does not comment on security matters. “Like all government agencies, we work closely with the Australian Government security agencies.
“The bureau's systems are fully operational and the bureau continues to provide reliable, ongoing access to high quality weather, climate, water and oceans information to its stakeholders,” the statement said.
There are no details on which systems have been affected or if any and whether information was taken, nor on why China was seen as the likely culprit.
There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Canberra.
Read more about US-China cyber relations
- Barack Obama criticises Chinese plans to force tech firms trading in China to share encryption keys and put backdoors in software
- China rejects the first official US accusations of cyber espionage and brands the US the “real hacking empire”, accusing it of sowing discord
- The US and China are to set up a working group on cyber security to co-ordinate joint efforts in safeguarding cyberspace
Among other services, the BoM provides climate information for commercial airlines and shipping, analyses national water supplies, gathers climate information and works closely with the defence department.
China has repeatedly been accused of using cyber attacks to spy on foreign states and companies. The US said the issue has put an "enormous strain" on their relationship.
Chinese officials routinely deny supporting cyber espionage and say China is itself a victim of hacking.
The Australian Federal Police declined to comment, while the Department of Defence said in a statement that it was barred by policy from commenting on specific cyber security incidents.