Canberra: Important data about Australia’s F- 35 stealth fighter and P-8 surveillance aircraft were stolen when a defence subcontractor was hacked using a tool widely used by allegedly Chinese cyber criminals, officials said on Thursday.
About 30GB of data was compromised in the hack on a government contractor, including details about new fighter planes and navy vessels. The data was commercially sensitive but not classified, the government said. It did not know if a state was involved.
Australian cyber security officials dubbed the mystery hacker “Alf”, after a character on TV soap Home and Away. The breach began in July last year, but the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) was not alerted until November. The hacker’s identity is not known.
“It could be one of a number of different actors,” Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Thursday. “It could be a state actor, [or] a non-state actor. It could be someone who was working for another company.” Mr Pyne said he had been assured the theft was not a risk to national security.
The hack was described as “extensive and extreme” by ASD incident response manager Mitchell Clarke.it included information about Australia’s new A$17bn (£10bn; $13bn) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, C130 transport plane and P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, as well as “a few” naval vessels, he said.