The ongoing bad blood between the Australian Government and China looks set the take another turn for the worse, with the joint statement released late yesterday (Monday) by three Federal Ministers that expresses “serious concerns” about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security.
Australia thus joins the US and other allies in blaming China for a large-scale global hack on Microsoft Exchange software earlier this year.
The attack compromised thousands of computers and several private organisations have already laid the blame at China’s door. Australia and most other countries have, however, only spoken out now.
Unease about China’s reported use of criminal hackers
In a joint statement, the Ministers for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Defence Peter Dutton also expressed unease about China’s reported use of criminal hackers.
“In consultation with our partners, the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia,” the statement said.
“These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain.”
The ministers noted that Australia was also seriously concerned about reports from its international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government.
Call for all countries to act responsibly in cyberspace
“Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace. China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage,” they stated.
Since 2017, Australia has publicly attributed malicious cyber activity to North Korea, Russia, China and Iran. Most recently, Australia joined more than 30 international partners to hold Russia to account for its harmful cyber campaign against SolarWinds.
SolarWinds Inc. is an American company that develops software for businesses to help manage their networks, systems, and information technology infrastructure.
“Australia calls out these malicious activities to highlight the significant risk they can pose to Australia’s national security or to international stability, which in turn can undermine business confidence and inclusive economic growth,” the ministers said.