Massive Cyber Attack Aimed At Australian Government; Aussies Blame China

Friday, June 19, 2020
By Paul Martin

By Eric A. Blair
June 19, 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the country has been under attack from a “sophisticated state-based actor” targeting companies, universities, hospitals and government officials for months.

Morrison did not name the country, but government sources say there is a “high degree of confidence that China is behind the attacks,” The Daily Mail reported.

The two countries have been having increasingly acrimonious relations.

Beijing and Canberra have been at loggerheads in recent weeks after Australia led global calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which first surfaced in China late last year.

China retaliated by slapping an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspending beef imports and telling students and tourists not to travel Down Under in an apparent attempt to damage the Australian economy.

Australia says the cyber-attacks have increased dramatically in recent weeks and targeted ‘all levels of government’ as well as ‘critical infrastructure’.

Security chiefs say the hackers are using the so-called ‘spear-phishing’ method to steal sensitive login details by sending scam emails, and carrying out regular ‘reconnaissance’ to find weak points in Australia’s defences.

Australia is one of five countries — along with the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand — that make the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which gives the country access to advanced capabilities but also makes it a target for bad players like China.

Said The Mail:

Security chiefs say the hackers are sending emails with malicious links, which divert people to hazardous websites or prompt them to grant access to Office software.

These tactics are known as ‘spear-phishing’ because they are more precisely targeted than traditional ‘phishing’ scams.

Four specific methods used in the Australian cyber attack include:

Sending links to ‘credential-harvesting websites’ which collect usernames and passwords;

Emails with links to malicious files, or with the malicious file directly attached;

Links prompting users to grant Office 365 authentication tokens to the attackers;

Use of email tracking services to identify when emails are opened and lure so-called ‘click-through events.’

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