The Australian government has condemned Beijing after the US charged two Chinese hackers with massive global state-sponsored cyber theft targeting companies and government agencies in at least a dozen countries.
The hackers gave China’s intelligence service access to intellectual property and other sensitive business information, US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters Friday morning (Australian time).
It is believed Australian organisations were among those targeted by the sustained hacking campaign.
“This is outright cheating and theft,” Mr Rosenstein said, speaking in Washington.
He said the hacked data gave China an unfair advantage at the expense of businesses and countries that follow international law.
Named in the US indictment were Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong.
They allegedly were members of a hacking group operating in China known as Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT10).
They allegedly worked for a company that acted in association with the Chinese Ministry of State Security’s Tianjin State Security Bureau, the Justice Department said.
A joint statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said APT10 was acting on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security and the group’s “sustained cyber intrusions” were significant.
They focused on large-scale managed service providers – companies that manage IT services and infrastructure for medium-to-large businesses and organisations – both in Australia and globally, the ministers said.
“Australia calls on all countries – including China – to uphold commitments to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining a competitive advantage,” they said in the statement, issued early Friday.
The statement added that the security compromise was a reminder to all organisations to be vigilant, and directed Australian organisations to the government’s cyber security information website www.cyber.gov.au for advice.
Geoffrey Berman, a US attorney from the Southern District of New York, said the hackers had also obtained the personal information of 100,000 Navy personnel.
He said the scale of the hacking was “shocking and outrageous”.
Mr Rosenstein said the threats posed by the hacking operation, which dates back to 2006, have never been more severe or more pervasive and are part of China’s ultimate goal to replace the US as the world’s leading superpower.