Hackers have been targeting Australian authorities, universities and companies for weeks. Canberra sees China behind the attacks.
The “cold war” with China is getting hotter in Australia. Government and Australian industry websites have seen aggressive cyber attacks in recent weeks. Although Canberra did not name China by name, experts believe Beijing is behind the attacks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the “malicious” attacks public on Friday. “Australian organizations are currently being targeted by a sophisticated government cyber player,” said Morrison. The threat shows a level of professionalism that can only come from a state actor.
The attacks targeted Australian organizations from various sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organizations, education, health, key service providers and critical infrastructure operators. When asked whether the attack came from China, Morrison only replied: “There are not too many state actors who have these capabilities.”
Experts such as security analyst Peter Jennings also cited China as a likely source. According to government sources, the recent attacks have many similarities to a cyber attack on the parliamentary computer system in February 2019, for which China was also responsible.
The cyberattack intelligence agency Australian Signals Directorate announced that Australian governments and corporations were “a target for a highly developed state actor.”
The actor uses links to fake websites to steal user data, as well as links to “malicious files” and email tracking services. They can determine when users open emails.
The Australian cyber security center, which is responsible for preventing hackers, is said to work with organizations and companies affected by the cyber attacks.
The attacks are apparently another arrow in China’s quiver in the fight against the Australian government, which sympathizes with the Trump administration. Australia and China have been in verbal conflict for weeks after Canberra, in chorus with the Trump administration, asked for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus. In the meantime, many countries have joined the demand.
Beijing has since used China to be the most important single buyer of Australian products and services with 30 percent of all exports. The government has imposed massive punitive tariffs on various Australian goods, including certain cereals and beef. Beijing also warned young people against studying in Australia. Racism against Asians escalated there as a result of Covid-19. Canberra strongly disputes this, but those affected and experts confirm the trend.
China is the primary country of origin for paid students at Australian universities. Education has become Australia’s third largest export industry.