China rejects Australian hacking allegations | Asia Pacific

China rejects Australian hacking allegations

China rejects Australian hacking allegations

Updated 1 May 2014, 14:05 AEST

China has rejected recent allegations that its intelligence services have hacked the Australian parliamentary email system, describing the Australian media reports as groundless and irresponsible.

A spokesman in Beijing said China itself was a victim of hacking ...and opposed and prohibited all such activity.

But that hasn't stopped a prominent Australian senator calling for an urgent inquiry into the matter, saying he's discussed the proposal with colleagues.

Reporter: Auskar Surbakti

Speakers: Qin Gang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Chris Gatford, a professional hacker from Hack Labs; Tom Worthington, cyber warfare specialist, Australian National University

SURBAKTI: The allegations have Australian politicians worried, with independent senator, Nick Xenophon calling it a "national scandal".

The Australian Financial Review has attributed government and security sources who say Chinese intelligence agencies hacked Australia's parliamentary computer network in 2011 for up to a year.. not a month as previously thought.

It's believed hackers would've had access to unclassified e-mails, contact databases and any other documents stored on the network.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang has condemned the claim.

QIN GANG: "I don't know what is the basis of these allegations by Australian media and whether they've provided any evidence. China opposes and prohibits hacking attacks."

SURBAKTI: Senator Xenophon has called for an urgent inquiry into the alleged hacking.

Tom Worthington is an adjunct professor at the Australian National University, specialising in computer security and cyberwarfare.

He's also a former IT policy adviser at the Australian defence department.

Mr Worthington says this latest report is no cause for alarm.

WORTHINGTON: "Someone getting into an unclassified administrative system isn't a national scandal. It's not a major security problem. It certainly needs to be investigated. If the system problems were not corrected for a period of a year, that's a matter for concern. But it's not that unusual."

SURBAKTI: He's confident the Australian government has appropriate measures in place to protect important information.

And Mr Worthington says if China was indeed behind this security breach, it wouldn't be the first country to carry out similar exercises.

WORTHINGTON: "There'll be no way to tell who may have penetrated this computer system for certain. Since time immemorial, nation states have been carrying out espionage against others. Everybody does it. Some years ago there was a news item to say that the US and Australia had filled the Chinese embassy in Canberra with bugs and the Chinese are now going to great trouble and expense to import their own labour into Canberra to build their own embassy building, which they hope will be more secure."

SURBAKTI: Chris Gatford is a professional hacker from Hack Labs, hired by companies to test the vulnerabilities of their IT systems.

He has no doubt that Australian authorities are also spying online.

GATFORD: "The Australian Signals Directorate actually has it part of they mandate. I think their byline is "protect our secrets, steal others". It is a modern part of intelligence and counter intelligence performing activities online on a routine basis these days."

SURBAKTI: Mr Gatford hopes this latest claim will serve as a wake-up call to the Australian government and other private organisations to get their cyber security in order.

GATFORD: "We as a nation are typically under-prepared for the threat of nation states such as countries like China, which does have an active internet espionage organisation doing these kind of attacks."

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