The Australian government has recently suffered from a series of major cyberattacks, marking the second year in a row that sophisticated attacks have been launched on Australian institutions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed at a press conference Thursday that Australia was being targeted by foreign, “state-based” actors, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“This activity is targeting Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government,” Morrison stated. “We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used.”
While Morrison opted not to name the country responsible for the attack, senior officials confirmed to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that China was the most likely suspect.
This is not the first time Australia has been subjected to large-scale hacking operations. In February 2019, the Australian Parliament House network was compromised by hackers, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). The hackers reportedly gained access to the networks of a number of central Australian political parties. (RELATED: We All Know Who Was Really Behind The Coronavirus Cyber Attack On HHS, Don’t We?)
Five anonymous sources in Australian intelligence announced later in 2019 that China had been behind the cyberattack in an exclusive Reuters report. The sources also claimed that an intelligence report “recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing.”
Morrison indicated on Thursday that despite the illicit activity on Australian networks, there were no “large-scale” breaches in personal data.
This all comes following a recent trade disagreement between Australia and China, to which there have been varied reactions.
The South China Morning Post published a piece mid-May saying, “China has dealt heavy blows to both Australian barley and beef industries, raising suspicions that Beijing is using trade to punish Canberra for lending support to the international call to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Australia’s Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reportedly told a number of Australian outlets a week later, “No, there’s no trade war.”
The South China Morning Post also interviewed an Australia native working as a brewer based in Shanghai, who asked to remain unnamed. He addressed the trade disagreement, saying, “If it doesn’t [blow over], it will kill the farmers in Australia … looking for other sourcing won’t hurt local companies, but the Australian economy could hurt.”