of cyber attacks have threatened the security of many large corporations
recently, including Sony, who lost millions of
customer records through its PlayStation Network
(PSN) and Sony Online
Entertainment (SOE) databases. More recently, the U.S.
government's top IT provider Lockheed Martin was hacked
using stolen RSA information.
With cyber attacks becoming more common and increasingly sophisticated,
Australia's government warned companies today that these threats are
"intensifying," and that heightened awareness of these attacks is
In February of this year, Australia's parliament suffered a cyber attack where
at least 10 federal computers were hacked. The computers of Prime Minister
Julia Gillard and Defense Minister Stephen Smith were among those accessed,
where confidential e-mails may have been compromised. Among those suspected of
committing the crime were Chinese
intelligence agencies, which were involved in similar crimes in
As a result, Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Communications
Minister Stephen Conroy met with chief executives from 20 of the largest resource
companies, manufacturers and banks last month to talk about the increase in
cyber threats. The executives received "confidential briefings" from
the Office of National Assessments and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD),
which guards against foreign IT threats. Some of the rumored companies in
attendance were Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton, Woodside, Rio Tinto and
the country's four major banks.
Then, in a business conference in Perth on Friday, an executive from
Australia's largest oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum, announced that cyber
attacks are a concern in Australia. But Outgoing Woodside Chief
Executive Don Voelte said that no one in particular is to blame; the attacks
are coming from everywhere.
"It comes from everywhere," said Voelte. "It comes from Eastern
Europe; it comes from Russia. Just don't pick on the Chinese; it's
McClelland added that the important thing to do is focus on the threat itself
and not necessarily worry about where it's coming from for now, at least.
"We don't comment on the source of those [attacks]," said McClelland.
"It is often literally hard to identify. They are often re-routed through
other countries and other providers. We think it is better to deal with the
threat, to address the vulnerability. It may well be that there is a private
corporation involved, that the issue can be addressed without prejudicing their
business relations, or their reputation.
"People should not assume that it is any particular company [involved],
because quite often, espionage will be conducted through a customer or a
Other sectors of the Australian government, such as the Australian Security
Intelligence Organization, plan to protect the country's resource companies from
potential attacks like those launched against the government in February.
"There is no doubt that cyber-security threats are becoming worse,"
said McClelland. "Without talking about specific incidents, there have
been a number of reports concerning our resource companies."