Australia under attack from 'cyberspies'

Summary:Australia is under attack from dozens of malicious cyberattacks every week, many of them sponsored by foreign powers.

The cyberattacks on Australia are getting more frequent and more serious, according to one of the country's top security chiefs.

Security analysts have said that many of the cyberattacks originate in China.

"The cyber threat is real. It has real consequences, it is persistent, it is here now," said Major General Stephen Day, deputy director of cyber and information security at the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). "We are in a daily struggle against malicious cyberthreats."

Nearly 1,800 cyber incidents were detected or reported to the ASD last year, up from 1,259 in 2011.

ASD, formerly the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), is the defence department's top-secret electronic intelligence gathering organisation and peak electronic security body.

There have been 789 attacks this year, and there would have been more attacks either undetected or unreported, Day said.

He said 80 percent were state sponsored. These were the most active, sophisticated, and best resourced.

They targeted defence and national security bodies, looking for vulnerable information.

"Once they do that, the preponderance of targeting is aimed at commercial information. We judge that 65 percent of all cyber intrusions we see in CSOC have an economic focus," he told the Australian Defence Magazine cybersecurity summit in Canberra.

Major General Day said theft of intellectual property is a big risk.

"If you are involved also in defence industry, then you are one of the key target groups for state-sponsored cyber espionage."

He didn't identify the nations responsible, but another speaker, US cyber strategist William Hagestad, pulled no punches.

"The threat by China is bad, and it's going to get worse," he said.

"Australia needs to develop offensive cyber capabilities in order to defend yourselves."

Topics: Security, Government : AU

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