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Roundup: Cyber terrorists pose serious risk to Aussie gov't services

Xinhua, October 12, 2016 Adjust font size:

Cyber terrorists may be able to break into secured Australian government systems within three years unless more is done to shore up the nation's cyber security, a government report has warned.

The 2016 Threat Report, to be formally released on Wednesday by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), has said foreign hackers would become one of the most serious threats to crucial government networks in coming years as foreign espionage begins to increasingly rely on cyber hacking.

Government facilities were the subject of more than 1,000 hacks over the 18 months to June 30 this year, and Dan Tehan, the minister assisting the prime minister on matters of Cyber Security, said Wednesday that the government would be proactive in reducing the threat posed by foreign hackers in coming years.

"We have indicated that cyber-espionage is alive and well," Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.

"We have to make sure that we're taking all the steps necessary to keep us safe, because the threat is there. The threat is real. Cyber security is something that we, as a nation, have to take very seriously."

The 2016 Threat Report said the number of attacks on Australian government offices is only expected to rise from the 1, 095 mark, and Tehan said that "within three years" terrorists may be able to access and compromise sensitive government computer networks which have important information.

"The ACSC estimates that within three years, terrorists will have the ability to compromise a secure network with destructive effect," Tehan told News Corp.

"We are ahead of the terrorists now and that is where we must remain."

The report said currently, terrorists are only able to break into "poorly secured" government networks but would soon have the capacity to break into well-protected government arms unless something is done.

It added that recent, high-profile cyber-attacks by foreign bodies should force a revision of cyber security measures in Australia.

"Behavior by a number of countries is demonstrating a willingness to use disruptive and destructive cyber operations to seriously impede or embarrass organizations and governments -- equating to foreign interference or coercion," the report said.

"The employment of the tactic in such a brazen manner against high-profile entities has almost certainly lowered the threshold of adversaries seeking to conduct such acts."

"More and more foreign states have acquired or are in the process of acquiring cyber-espionage capabilities."

"The ACSC is aware of diverse state-based adversaries attempting cyber espionage against Australian systems to satisfy strategic, operational and commercial intelligence requirements."

Meanwhile the report also delivered its final review into a hack into the nation's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) last year.

The report concluded the break-in was the work of a foreign power, and said hackers managed to install malicious software and download sensitive information from the bureau's servers.

The ACSC has said that hack should also act as both a "wake-up call" and yet another catalyst for the government to further beef up its cyber security in coming years. Endit