Defence data hack puts cyber security in the spotlight

Hacker group codenamed 'Alf' after famous Home and Away character steals sensitive information about Australia's multi-billion dollar fighter jet program

It is reported that 30GB of data was stolen, after the network of a small Australian defence contractor was breached.

"A significant amount of data was stolen from them, and most of the data was defence related", he told the Australian Information Security Association.

An Australian Signals Directorate employee, Mitchell Clarke, revealed at an IT industry conference on Wednesday foreign hackers stole 30 gigabytes of data from an unnamed Defence Department contractor past year.

ASD when they investigated the hack found a China Chopper remote shell, a backdoor commonly used by Chinese hackers, and Clarke said that ASD found that the Alf hacker had been attempting to use this exploit on a number of Australian IT companies.

But according to Australian defence industry minister Christopher Pyne, the data was "commercial" not "military".

"It could have been a state actor, it could have been cyber criminals, and that's why it was taken so seriously".

The company had used default logins and passwords such as "admin" and "guest" and had only one person working on IT.

A mystery hacker has stolen information about Australia's warplanes from a defence subcontractor.


"Given that hackers were able to roam the network long enough to siphon off 30GB of sensitive data, it highlights that there is a fundamental element of cyber-security missing".

He added that the "compromise was extensive and extreme". The attacker had apparently gained and continued to have access for an extended period of time and the report says that the hacker "remained active on the network at the time".

"Once again, the latest cyber-attack on the Australian defence programme highlights fundamental flaws in current security models".

According to Mitchell Clarke, the hacked company was rather small and was subcontracted four levels down from the defense contracts.

The network reportedly had no protective DMZ, no regular patch schedule, and common local admin passwords on all servers and the hosts had internet-facing services.

The ACSC said in a report on Monday that it responded to 734 cyber attacks on "systems of national interest" for the year ended June 30, and the defense industry was a major target.

The report was published this week by Australia's Cyber Security Minister Dan Tehan. Breach detection times are not reducing.

"We need to decouple security from infrastructure and adopt a "zero trust" security model: to achieve access, a user needs to both see an application and be permitted to use it". "This means that, in the inevitability of a breach occurring, the data to which hackers can gain access is constrained".

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