Sunday 20 October 2019

Australian spy HQ plans 'hacked'

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard described the ABC report as 'inaccurate', but refused to go into detail
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard described the ABC report as 'inaccurate', but refused to go into detail

Australian officials have refused to confirm or deny claims that Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints of a new spy agency headquarters.

The Greens party, part of the ruling coalition government, has demanded an inquiry into how much damage may have been caused.

ABC television reported that the plans for the 630 million Australian dollar (£401 million) Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) building had been stolen through a cyberattack on a building contractor.

Blueprints said to include details such as communications cabling, server locations and security systems had been traced to a Chinese server, the network reported.

Des Ball, an Australian National University cybersecurity expert, said China could use the blueprints to bug the building, which is nearing completion in Canberra, the capital, after lengthy construction delays.

Mr Ball told the ABC that given the breach, ASIO would either have to operate with "utmost sensitivity" within its own building or simply "rip the whole insides out and ... start again".

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the minister in charge of the spy agency, refused to confirm or deny the report, citing a longstanding government policy of declining to comment on security matters.

Questioned about the alleged security breach in parliament, prime minister Julia Gillard described the ABC report as "inaccurate", but refused to go into detail.

The minor Greens party, which the centre-left Labour Party relies on to maintain its minority government, has demanded an inquiry into the future of the troubled building, which has been plagued by cost blowouts from an original budget of 460 million Australian dollars (£293 million).

Greens leader Christine Milne said: "It is time that we had an independent inquiry into the whole sorry history of the ASIO building and the extent to which the current hacking has compromised its capacity to ever be the building and serve the purpose for which it was intended." She said no more money should be spent on the building until an inquiry was held into the truth of the hacking allegation and the extent of the alleged security compromise.

PA Media

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