Morrison revealed the existence of an attack during a news conference on Friday, adding that the “state-based cyber actor” targets Australian organizations in a variety of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organizations, education, health, key service providers and other critical operators. infrastructure. “
He did not specify which agencies or companies were believed to have been attacked, nor did he specify the exact nature of the attack – although he said a government investigation had not revealed any “major breaches of personal data”.
Morrison also did not say which state Australia believes is behind the attack. But he told reporters that “there are not a large number of state actors who could engage in this type of activity.”
“It’s clear … that it was done by a state actor with very, very significant abilities,” Morrison added.
The attacks are also not new, and Morrison has made it clear that such threats are “a constant issue that Australia must face.” But he added that this prompted him to speak on Friday as the “frequency increased” over “several months”.
While Morrison declined to say who might be behind the attack, the scale and timing led many political observers to point the finger at China immediately. Asked by reporters on Friday whether Beijing was responsible, Morrison said he “cannot control speculation.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
China claimed to be the biggest victim of a cyber attack, not the perpetrator. The country has consistently denied allegations of its cyber espionage activities.
Ability and motive
Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI), told CNN Business that there is a “95% chance that China is responsible for the attack.”
“It really comes down to understanding the capacity and interest that any country might have in wanting to get involved in an attack like this on Australia,” said Jennings, a former senior Australian Department of Defense official. “There are some other countries that are capable, and that is Russia and North Korea, but in both cases they do not have the scale to go as comprehensively as China.”
He added that currently neither Russia nor North Korea have much “strategic interest in Australian politics”.
Chinese officials attacked ASPI’s independence and credibility, calling his reports “distorting facts and ridiculous.”
“There is only one country that has a combination of skills and motives, and that is China,” Jennings said. “And honestly, there’s also a pattern of China’s behavior over the years in this.”
Canberra has in the past avoided blaming other countries for major cyber attacks, including an operation launched against the state parliament and major political parties in 2019.
CNN’s Hilary Whiteman contributed to the reporting.
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