"Extensive" hack breaches Australian defence data

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

He said the attacks included a serious breach of a defence contractor's computer system in November 2016, which saw a significant amount of data stolen.

The Australian government has revealed that a hacker previous year breached a small, domestic national security contractor and stole data relating to multiple military projects.

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 previous year. Pyne also said the hacker is still unknown.

"In a separate comment on the issue, the country's Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp that "it could be one of a number of different actors". "It could be a state actor, a non-state actor, it could have been someone who was working for another company, so I would not want to speculate on that at this stage", Mr Pyne told ABC Radio.

The Australian defence ministry is trying to downplay the 2016 hacking of a contractor that exposed data about Australia's Joint Strike Fighter programme.

Investigator Mitchell Clarke, an incident response manager for the ASD, worked on the investigation and states that one of the stolen pieces of data was a wireframe diagram of "one of the navy's new ships". ASD refers to the three months between the attacker gaining access, and the ASD becoming aware of it, as "Alf's Mystery Happy Fun Time".

The 50-person aerospace engineering firm was compromised in July previous year but the national cyber security agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), became aware of the breach only in November, technology website ZDNet Australia reported.

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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.

However, he added that the incident was a "salutary reminder" about cyber security. This is not rocket science but does require resources.

Australia's cyber security has dubbed the mystery hacker, "Alf", after the beloved Australian TV soap Home and Away.

The Defense Industry Minister, however, insisted that the theft was not a risk to national security, as the data that was taken was commercial, not military. "Collectively, the industry needs to embrace a new approach to security", said German.

Mr Clarke described the security breach as "sloppy admin" and said the organisation only had one IT person.

"Security thinking needs to change; organisations need to move away from the concept of owned and unowned networks or infrastructure and consider only users, applications and secure access - and the security industry must facilitate that shift". On 22 March 2018, the event will come to the United States for the first time, taking place in one of the world's most prominent business cities: NY.

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