Australian PM's computer hacked: report

Mar 29, 2011

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's parliamentary computer and the foreign and defence ministers' machines are all suspected of being hacked, with China under suspicion, reports said Tuesday.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph said American intelligence officials tipped off the government that several thousand emails may have been accessed from the computers of at least 10 ministers.

As well as Gillard, they reportedly included Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

The paper said the espionage occurred over more than a month, beginning in February.

"Four separate government sources confirmed that they had been told Chinese were among a list of foreign hackers that are under suspicion," it said.

One of the sources said the revelations were "deeply concerning".

"These claims need to be examined seriously," they said.

Security experts cited by another News Limited newspaper, The Australian, said they believed the hackers may have been looking for clues on government attitudes to major resource projects.

Intelligent Risk chief executive Neil Fergus said interest in Australian commercial secrets may have prompted the attacks.

"There are massive resources projects on the drawing board in Australia, they loom very large in the thinking of a number of other countries," he said.

"Whether we green-light projects is of critical importance. I would not understate the possibility of that, given Australia's resources boom and its importance to a number of our key trading partners."

Attorney-General Robert McClelland refused to confirm or deny the incident.

"It's the long standing practice of successive Australian governments not to comment on the operations of security and intelligence agencies," he said in a statement.

"Australia's security and intelligence agencies, as a matter of course, work closely and co-operatively with their international counterparts on .

"The Australian government takes the issue of cyber security very seriously and is constantly strengthening cyber security measures," he said.

Gillard similarly refused to comment when asked by reporters in Perth.

"We don't comment on intelligence matters," she said.

China, meanwhile, denied the claims. "Any accusations against the Chinese government are believed to be groundless and made out of ulterior purposes," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

The cyber attacks are believed to have been on the Australian Parliament House email network, the less secure of two networks used by MPs.

Ministers use a departmental network for more high-security communications.

A report from the Australian National Audit Office, meanwhile, said more than 10 percent of passwords used in Gillard's department could be easily broken in an hour by hackers using "brute force".

It said passwords needed to be more complex and access to web-based email accounts such as Hotmail and Gmail should be blocked.

Basic software updating was not being done regularly enough and this left security holes, the audit found.

Explore further: Twitter looks to weave into more mobile apps

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

German ministers told to avoid BlackBerrys, iPhones

Aug 09, 2010

The German government said Monday ministers and senior civil servants have been told not to use iPhone and BlackBerry mobile devices as the interior minister warned a "dramatic" rise in cyber attacks.

SKorea and US forge deal to fight cyber attacks

May 04, 2009

South Korea and the United States have agreed to cooperate in fighting cyber attacks against their defence networks from countries including China and North Korea, officials said Monday.

Recommended for you

Twitter looks to weave into more mobile apps

5 hours ago

Twitter on Wednesday set out to weave itself into mobile applications with a free "Fabric" platform to help developers build better programs and make more money.

Google unveils app for managing Gmail inboxes

6 hours ago

Google is introducing an application designed to make it easier for its Gmail users to find and manage important information that can often become buried in their inboxes.

Fighting cyber-crime one app at a time

12 hours ago

This summer Victoria University of Wellington will be home to four Singaporean students researching cyber threats. The students have been working with Dr Ian Welch, a lecturer in Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer ...

Is big data heading for its 'horsemeat moment'?

14 hours ago

There have been so many leaks, hacks and scares based on misuse or misappropriation of personal data that any thought that "big data" could provide benefits rather than only opportunities for harm may be ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jjoensuu
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
China is under suspicion? Sheesh why not Iran? Or domestic intelligence services? Or Google, they are evil after all.