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  • China calls Australian spy HQ plans hacking claims ‘groundless’

    Foreign ministry spokesman shrugs off ‘groundless accusations’ by Australian media that Chinese hackers stole Asio blueprints

    China has shrugged off allegations by Australian media that Chinese hackers have stolen the blueprints for the new Australian spy headquarters.

    “China pays high attention to cybersecurity issues, and is firmly apposed to all forms of hacker attacks,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. “Groundless accusations will not help solve this issue.”

    The response came amid separate allegations that Chinese hackers had compromised some of the US’s most advanced weapons systems designs.

    According to a classified report prepared for the Pentagon, the breaches compromised more than two dozen weapon designs for highly advanced missiles, fighter jets, helicopters and combat ships, the Washington Post reported.

    Designs believed to have been compromised include those for the advanced Patriot missile system, the Black Hawk helicopter, and the $1.4tn F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system ever built.

    While the Defence Science Board, a senior advisory group that prepared the report, did not explicitly accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs, “senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against US defence contractors and government agencies,” the Washington Post reported.

    “In many cases, [the defence contractors] don’t know they’ve been hacked until the FBI comes knocking on their door,” an unidentified senior military official told the newspaper. “This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China. They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development. It’s nuts.”

    In Canberra, the Australian foreign minister, Bob Carr, said claims that Chinese hackers stole top-secret blueprints of the Australian spy agency Asio’s new headquarters would not threaten bilateral ties.

    Carr refused to confirm ABC reports that the cyber-attack netted documents containing details of the building’s floor plan, communications cabling layouts, server locations and security systems.

    Concern has been rising over state-sponsored hacking emanating from China, with further allegations that its cyberspies have recently obtained sensitive Australian military secrets and foreign affairs documents.

    Carr said the government was “very alive” to emerging cybersecurity threats but refused to confirm the ABC’s specific claims on Tuesday.

    “I won’t comment on matters of intelligence and security for the obvious reason: we don’t want to share with the world and potential aggressors what we know about what they might be doing, and how they might be doing it,” he said.

    The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, referred in parliament on Tuesday to “these inaccurate reports” without elaborating on which elements of the reports were wrong.

    George Brandis, a senator with the opposition Liberal party, said on Wednesday that he had received a confidential briefing from Asio officials and the report was accurate. The Australian newspaper reported that the plans were stolen three years ago and no longer posed a threat to the operations of Australia’s main spy agency.

    The Asio building’s construction had been plagued by delays and ballooning cost, with builders blaming late changes made to the internal design in response to cyber-attacks.

    Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei was last year barred from bidding for construction contracts on the national broadband network amid fears of cyber-espionage.

    Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing
    guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 29 May 2013 03.10 BST

    Find this story at 29 May 2013

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